Friday, July 29, 2011

TMEIC buys GE Energy's Interest

Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corporation (TMEIC) and General Electric Company (GE) have reached an amicable agreement to separate their industrial drive systems joint venture--TM GE Automation Systems LLC (TMEIC GE)--to reflect changes in business strategies within both organizations.

As a result, TMEIC has purchased GE Energy’s ownership interest in TMEIC GE. Effective today, TMEIC GE will become TMEIC Corporation, headquartered in Roanoke.

TMEIC Corporation is a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corporation (TMEIC), a manufacturer of large industrial motors and drives automation headquartered in Tokyo.

TMEIC and GE will cooperate during the transition to meet existing commitments to customers of TMEIC GE. Both companies are working to support implementation continuity on current projects.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freedom First Gets Funds for Roanoke Micro Branch

Freedom First Credit Union has been awarded $850,000 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) to establish a Micro Branch in the Hurt Park neighborhood, the most economically distressed community in Roanoke.

Freedom First Credit Union is the only local award recipient, and one of only 155 nationwide. "This award will assist in providing the necessary funding to continue our extensive community and economic development initiatives in the local community,” says Paul Phillips, President/CEO of Freedom First Credit Union.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Liberty Law Institutes Prosecution Clinic

Liberty Law School mock courtroom.

Liberty University School in Lynchburg has launched the new Law Prosecution Clinic, giving students an opportunity to actively engage in the criminal justice system. From initial arraignments to motion hearings, trials and appeals, the students’ experiences went beyond mere observation as each student prosecuted actual cases.

In a unique partnership with the Bedford Commonwealth Attorney, the Clinic exposes students to the real-life, real-time work of a prosecutor. Students are challenged to think critically about the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system while learning what it means to balance morality with power. According to student Matthew Falwell, “The important lessons learned working in the Commonwealth Attorney's office could not have been learned in a classroom setting anywhere.”

The Clinic provides students with an opportunity to actively engage in prosecution while earning academic credit. Students work directly under the supervision of a faculty member and the Commonwealth Attorney and receive additional classroom instruction with an emphasis on ethics, forensic science, case preparation, and jury instructions.

Student training also includes an emphasis on the integral role of the broader community to the prosecution process including law enforcement, witness protection and social services.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, says, “Clinics are a critical and essential step towards the transition from student to practitioner as we continue to train a new generation of leaders grounded in the rule of law from a Christian perspective.”

Maxx Performance To Open Roanoke Research & Development Facility

Dr. Winston Samuels and Marilyn Samuels (center) with Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill and Ann Blair Miller of Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Maxx Performance, which specializes in encapsulation and microencapsulation technology (used in the food industry), plans to open an R&D facility in Roanoke during the next three years. It will invest $700,000 and employ between 12 and 15 people. The facility will be in the old Valley Rich Dairy building on Aerial Way Drive.

The privately-held company's headquarters are in Chester, N.Y. It was established in 2004.

According to a press release, "The company’s products mask taste and off-odors, extend shelf life, and enhance flavor and texture to help manufacturers overcome application and processing challenges, optimize product delivery, and improve time to market."

“Our new Virginia-based facility will house a state-of-the-art application test center where customers can evaluate our ingredients in their products and develop formulations that can be scaled up,” says Dr. Winston Samuels, president and CEO. “It will also allow us to work with the brightest minds at Virginia Tech to innovate more of the practical applications our customers need to succeed. Locating our facility in Roanoke enables us to give back to the region some of what was given to us while we were students at Virginia Tech.”

The release explains that "microencapsulation is at the leading edge in food formulation technology. For example, bitter tastes such as caffeine, green tea extract or certain vitamins and minerals can provide healthful benefits but affect how foods taste. Microencapsulation, containing these ingredients and their tastes in microscopic capsules, enables the tastes to be managed within a completed product and, for example, reduce the need for artificial sweeteners."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Roanoke Strong Nationally in Outdoor Activities

Christine Ward paddles her kayak at Carvins Cove in Roanoke.

A new study of some of the nation's most prominent centers for outdoor activities puts Roanoke among the elite nationally.

The study found that the region ranked highly in concentration of greenway trails, public recreational land, square footage of lakes and other assets, setting the stage for growth in outdoor businesses looking to grow around hiking, biking, paddling and other activities.

This first-ever study, conducted earlier this year by the Roanoke Regional Partnership with assistance from the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, was commissioned to determine the breadth of the region’s outdoor economy and the overall competitiveness of its mix of amenities and outdoor offerings.

The benchmarking study includes Asheville, N.C., Greenville, S.C., Boulder, Colo., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Portland, Maine. The results show Roanoke on par with Asheville, Boulder and Chattanooga, with Portland ranking the highest.

While the Roanoke Region’s outdoor amenities ranked high, the study found opportunities for entrepreneurs and existing outdoor businesses looking to capitalize on its growing outdoor brand.

“Overall, this study indicates we have a strong base to build upon and there may be significant potential for further business growth,” says Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

While researching the data, study authors say the Roanoke Region is ahead of competing markets when it comes to inventorying and measuring its base of amenities.

While inventories of trails, campgrounds, and other assets can be almost impossible to find in many communities, the Roanoke Region has invested in an online resource for the outdoors, and regularly reports data on the usage of amenities and important metrics like mileage of trails in the region in its annual economic metrics program.

“There is potential for Roanoke to become a major outdoor industry center,” Eshelman says.

Some other findings in the study:
  • The Roanoke Region’s cost of living is 8.5 percent below the national average and the lowest of the communities in the analysis, which indicates cost advantages in lodging, dining and other services catering to the outdoor community.
  • Roanoke was tops in running events. With the Blue Ridge Marathon, numerous half-marathons and an abundance of trail runs, the region scored highest in races per 1,000 people.
  • Roanoke ranks third in total outdoor-related events, including cycling races, running events and fishing tournaments.
  • Roanoke was second only to Asheville when it comes to public recreational land within 50 miles on a per-capita basis.
  • Roanoke is third in per-capita cycling events and the resurgence in cycling is increasing the Roanoke Region’s competitiveness among its peers. On a per-capita basis, however, Roanoke has fewer bike shops than four of the comparison communities.
  • Roanoke was ranked second next to Boulder in per-capita mileage of greenway trails.
  • Despite the presence of Smith Mountain Lake and numerous rivers, the Roanoke Region has fewer fishing tournaments, coming in next to last in the study.
  • The Roanoke Region has relatively fewer companies engaged in the outdoor industry. Roanoke’s percentage of firms involved in the outdoor industry was 0.7 percent. The Roanoke Regional Partnership is actively courting members of the Outdoor Industry Association.
  • The Roanoke Region was relatively weak in terms of the proportion of its employment in the outdoor recreational industry. Roanoke’s percentage of outdoor employment was .49 percent of overall employment – compared to 1.06 percent in Asheville.
More details are available in the full report here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tech Opens New Public Health Research Center

The Institute for Society, Culture and Environment at Virginia Tech has formed the Center for Public Health Practice and Research, directed by Kathy Hosig, associate professor of population health sciences.

Formerly the Institute for Community Health, the new center was created in response to the increase in health-related research across campus and the new Master of Public Health program. The mission of the center is to foster interdisciplinary, collaborative public health practice, and research activities at Virginia Tech and among external public health agencies, organizations, practitioners, and researchers.

"In support of the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment's mission of enhancing interdisciplinary scholarship and research funding in the social sciences and humanities, the center provides an excellent opportunity to pool faculty expertise to create a larger, more recognizable entity than a single faculty member or program alone might accomplish," said Karen Roberto, director of the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment.

The Center for Public Health Practice and Research will be housed in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and supported by the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment. Additional support will be provided through collaborative projects to which center staff time and resources will be devoted.

"The center will provide research and outreach opportunities for faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates, and a mechanism for collaboration among university researchers and with outside partners to respond to national and community needs," said Hosig.

"We will place students with center partner agencies and organizations for practicum experiences," said Fran├žois Elvinger, department head of population health sciences. "These projects will immerse our Master of Public Health students in a wide range of public health service and research projects," he said.

Monday, July 11, 2011

WDBJ7 Rebuilding News Team

Gena Miller (top) and Melissa Gaona

WDBJ7 in Roanoke continues to make adjustments to its news operation in the wake of the firing of its news director and the retirement of long-time anchor Keith Humphry.

Here's the latest from the region's dominant television news organization:

An experienced news director, new reporters, a fourth newsroom, and management promotions enhance NEWS7’s market leading position.

Dan Dennison’s skills acquired during his 40 years in the news business are now leading the news department at Your Hometown Station. He took over as NEWS7 news director in June. He has managed television news departments in Colorado, California, and Hawaii.

One of those areas of growth is the opening of the NEWS7 Danville bureau. The station now has four newsrooms: Danville, Blacksburg, Lynchburg and Roanoke. The company recently hired two reporters: Justin Ward as bureau chief in Danville (who had been in Bluefield) and Melissa Gaona, a Texas native who worked in Bristol.

Mark Layman is now the company’s director of news operations. He is leading the team of photojournalist in on-line and mobile news gathering.

Gena Miller has moved into the role of production manager, overseeing studio operations. She has been with WDBJ7 since 2005, serving as a newscast director and studio supervisor.

“I’m confident that these changes will build on our successes and position us to continue to lead in all platforms,” says WDBJ7 general manager, Jeffrey A. Marks. "The company has long been the market leader for news and information, on both television and on-line. These changes are laying the groundwork for future expansion into new technologies."

Chris Henson Joins Access as Creative Director

Access Advertising & Public Relations has named Chris Henson (right) creative director. In this position, Henson will be responsible for creative development,design and client relations.

Henson entered advertising as a designer and copywriter in 1993. Since then, he has worked as an art director, graphic designer, illustrator, copywriter, audio/video editor, and creative director for several agencies in the Roanoke area, including Katie Wallace Design and John Lambert Associates and was director of publications at Roanoke College. He operated his own small creative agency, MediaFrenzy, for the last six years.

“Injecting Chris’considerable talents and experience into the seasoned creative team at Access will have an immediate positive impact for our clients, adding powerful ideas and Chris’ unique style and energy to every project,” says Tony Pearman, CEO and Chief Creative Officer for Access.

Henson's broad experience in branding and advertising includes the healthcare, higher education, technology, and security industries. He has led many highly successful branding campaigns for clients including Delta Dental of Virginia, Medeco High Security Locks and others. Henson has collaborated on promotions for area non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, CASA, Boys and Girls Club of the Roanoke Valley, Goodwill Industries, the Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Advertising Federation of the Roanoke Valley.

He often lectures on the creative process, has taught graphic design, and has led corporate branding workshops. He has been a features writer for a daily paper, a guest commentator on WVTF (where his wife, Connie Stevens, is news director) and a voiceover artist. Henson has a B.A. in communications and a minor in music from Virginia Tech.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Roanoke's Wine Gourmet Changes Hands

Wine Gourmet in Roanoke has been bought by Brian G. Powell.The business will continue to operate at 3524 Electric Road in Promenade Park Shopping Center and its employees will remain with the store. Former owner Kimberly Eakin will continue as an employee.

Powell says, “For the time being, it will be business as usual. The company has been successful for nearly 10 years and I am excited to become part of a winning tradition in the Valley.”

The new ownership plans to focus on greater selection and will hold additional wine seminars, wine travel opportunities and special events with wineries. Powell says, “At this point, I am exploring the plan to offer more variety in the under $15 category and expanding our luxury collection of wines.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rockydale Quarries Expands Again

Roanoke-based Rockydale Quarries Corporation has announced the acquisition of two quarry locations from C.S. Mundy Quarries Inc. The ownership change was effective July 1.

The new locations will operate as the Rockydale-Flatrock Quarry located in Shenandoah County and the Rockydale-Broadway Quarry outside of Harrisonburg in Rockingham County.

The purchase came 10 months after Rockydale opened a new quarry site outside Charlottesville.

Ken Randolph, president of Rockydale Quarries, says, “After the successful opening of our Charlottesville Quarry, we continued to look for additional opportunities to further expand our core business. The Mundy locations are an excellent fit in our growth strategy and we are excited about the opportunity to serve the Rockingham and Shenandoah County areas.”

With these two new sites, Rockydale has a total of seven quarry locations and an additional lime processing facility. Integrating the two new sites will be very strategic and also create additional synergies between other current locations. Rockydale will maintain the current workforce with plans to add other positions in the near future.

Friendship Adds Physiatrist to Staff

Physiatrist Dr. Murray Joiner Jr. (right) has established a clinic at Friendship Retirement Community in Roanoke—the only retirement community in the region with a full-time physiatrist on campus.

Joiner specializes in physiatry, or rehabilitation medicine, which helps \ enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to people with physical impairments or disabilities. In addition to opening a clinic at Friendship Outpatient & Wellness Center, he will serve as medical director of the rehab department.

“As a campus noted for outstanding inpatient and outpatient rehab services, it is vital to have a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine treating our patients and residents,” says President/CEO Russ Barksdale,. “The level of care that we can now provide is exemplary.”

Joiner maintains offices in Roanoke and Lynchburg. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, a Diplomate of the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians, and a Fellow of the Interventional Pain Physicians.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Place to Do Business: Lynchburg 49, Roanoke 81

Downtown Lynchburg from Madison Heights.

Forbes 's 2011 Best Places for Businesses and Careers places the Lynchburg MSA at No. 49 and Roanoke No. 81, trailing Northern Virginia (27) and ahead--far ahead--of Virginia Beach (126). The rankings measure a region’s cost of doing business, annual job growth and education ranking.

“We were the smallest metro in terms of population to land in the top 50 outside of Washington State and that speaks volumes,” says Bryan David, Executive Director of Virginia’s Region 2000 Economic Development Council. “This ranking shows once again how competitive our region’s economy stacks up nationally.”

In the past several years, the Lynchburg metro has demonstrated its competitiveness with high rankings in this Forbes list and others such as the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities Index. Last year, the metro led the state in 28th place in the nation in the Forbes list and moved up 11 positions from the previous year in the Milken Institute’s list that looks at how well a region creates and sustains jobs.

Micro-Business Continued: and Greens to Go

Kathy O'Hara of

(This is one of four segments of the July Valley Business FRONT cover story on Micro-Business. Three more profiles follow this one.)

Owner: Kathy O'Hara

Age: 59

Location: Roanoke

Type of Business is a Web-based farmers market; Greens to Go is a hoophouse producing salad greens

Financing: Owner’s retirement account, a brother and a friend

Total employees: 2

The Story:

Kathy O’Hara was having a time of it finding a college-level teaching job, but had run a market garden in Goshen for 10 years prior to moving to Roanoke. “This was a natural extension to support myself with something I knew about,” she says.

"I like working with farmers and I like creating networks of people. Finding solutions to tangible infrastructure problems is challenging and interesting. This is such a new area that it will take some creativity to match farmer capacity with market demand.”

Kathy has had to work at marketing what is new: a Web-based food market. Runner-Bean has not yet fully succeeded and “I suspect I need much better marketing skills,” she says. “I depend heavily on my Web designer and the communication has not always been productive or timely.”

Greens to Go is doing well, “both productively and financially.”

Marketing and time management are the major challenges. She is concentrating “on keeping good financial records so I can track my progress. So far, so good.” <

The businesses are “too small an operation right now to sustain me, but hold promise for expansion. I've had a lot of support from VT Earthworks in making that work, and from Tom Tanner at the Small Business Development Center in Roanoke. I couldn't do this by myself.

Micro-Business Continued: Erika Design

Erika Williams Bentley

(This is part of the July cover story on Micro-Business in Valley Business FRONT.)

Owner: Erika Williams Bentley

Age: 23

Location: Floyd

Type of Business: Graphic design

Founded: February, 2011

Total employees: 1

Financing: Self-financed

The Story.

In December of last year, Erika Bentley lost her job and went looking for another “at a larger marketing or advertising agency.” She knew there would be a challenge and she also understood “the importance of networking, both in the traditional way and through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I began attending many local networking events and made sure that all of my social media sites were optimized to showcase my portfolio and professional experience.” While doing this, she learned new and invaluable skills.

“By a stroke of luck,” she says, “I met Janeson Keeley, owner of JTK Web [and a FRONT columnist], at a local networking event. It was a meeting that changed my direction completely. Janeson was the first person who planted the idea in my mind to start my own business as a graphic designer [and she] introduced me to Patsy Stewart, owner of the Social Buzz Lab, at a local networking breakfast, and a wonderful partnership was born. Patsy was just beginning her businesses, as well, and was looking for a graphic designer not only to help her develop her brand and Web site, but to commission for projects for her clients. Since meeting Patsy Stewart in February of 2011, we have partnered on many projects, including a very successful hands-on social media workshop.

“One of my greatest successes was a result of the hands-on social media workshop. One of [those attending] was so happy with the graphic design work that I did, that I was commissioned to develop the company’s entire brand identity. Since founding my business in February I’ve expanded my client base to over 30 clients throughout Virginia and Pennsylvania. One of the greatest challenges I have faced as a new business owner is people who want my time and services for free.

Micro-Business Continued: Native Grace

Donna Bollinger with her working kids Amir (16, left) and Sahar Babi (15)

(This is part of the July cover story on Micro-Business in Valley Business FRONT.)

Owner: Donna G. Bollinger

Age: 48

Location: Roanoke

Type of Business: Fair Trade Retail

Founded: 2008

Financing: Personal credit ($30,000 on Chase credit card with a 2.9 percent interest for the life of the loan)

Total employees: 1 (her children Amir and Sahar Babi help; interns)

The Story:

Donna Bollinger parlayed her 20 years of working internationally into a business. “My vision was to create a space in the community for people to learn about cultures and artisans around the world, while supporting these fair trade initiatives,” she says. She opened in late 2008 and within a year had to double her space.

She envisions “a non-profit that promotes study tours to visit cooperatives around the world as well as extensive education about fair trade issues and specialty art workshops” and she hopes to make “strides in educating the area about fair trade practices and how we can make a difference in eliminating child labor and unsafe practices.”

Donna works with 40 fair trade groups, many of them small, and “trying to organize, identify and price items and provide information about the groups is a time-consuming task. The work … has a huge impact on lives and communities around the world while also bringing unique items to those who are purchasing.”

(Dan Smith photo.)

Micro-Business Continued: LoveStone Inn Bed and Breakfast

(This is part of the July cover story on Micro-Business in Valley Business FRONT.)

Owners: Dawn Spencer and Tom Zirkelbach

Age: 61

Location: Huddleston

Type of Business: Bed and breakfast

Founded: 2003

Financing: “Savings and selling our home in Illinois.”

Total employees: 2

The Story:

This is a case of retiring right and following a long-held dream. “We meet over 800 people each year who are visiting the area, share family stories and many become friends,” says Dawn. “We consider [the B&B] a slice of heaven, but it is a 24/7 endeavor … As we age, it is a challenge to keep up with all that is involved in running a B&B of this size.”

It has been a good run, but “we are planning to sell the Inn in the next year, but stay on Smith Mountain Lake. We have an extensive bucket list, which we plan to start working on. Our hope is to find innkeepers that love this Inn as much as we do.”