Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Transportation Museum To Install Electric Charging Station Downtown

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is all but finished installing an Eaton Level 2 Pow-R-Station electric vehicle charging station (like the one above) at the Museum in downtown Roanoke.

The charging station is part of the Museum’s efforts to highlight emerging transportation technologies and their impact on community development throughout the Commonwealth. “Alternative energies and fuels have an important place in the future of transportation,” says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Museum.

Plug-in electric vehicles offer improved fuel economy, lower emissions and strong acceleration with a quiet operation – all from a domestic energy source. Some industry forecasts predict an annual volume of 400,000 battery-operated electric vehicles in North American by 2020. These electric vehicles will require substantial residential, commercial and public infrastructure to support them.

“We’re thrilled to have the first charging station in downtown Roanoke,” says Fitzpatrick. “Our hope is that it doesn’t end here. We’d like to see more power stations throughout the Roanoke Valley.”

The Eaton Level 2 Pow-R-Station is NEMA 3R-rated for outdoor use. The charging station supplies the connection to the grid where the vehicles are parked and provides the electric car’s onboard charger with the electricity it needs to refill the battery.

Tech Jewish Center Employs Passivhaus Technology

Structures Design Build of Roanoke has achieved pre-certification to construct a new Jewish center (above) using Passivhaus energy-efficiency technology. The Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center for Jewish Life, now under construction across from the Virginia Tech campus, will be the first religious building and the largest commercial building in the United States incorporating PassivStructures propriety technology and standards to achieve low-energy usage certification.

Passivhaus-certified structures typically use 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than conventional buildings. Pre-certification is part of the process whereby the Passive House Institute US confirms a project’s ultra low energy projections and methodology before construction. Passivhaus is a German term for a new trend in construction that meets extreme standards in energy efficiency.

The 8,000-square-foot center will provide an inclusive, nurturing environment with programming space needed for Jewish cultural, educational, social, and religious activities.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Shehan Roanoke Regional Forum Speaker

The Roanoke Regional Forum, an educational and networking organization, will present Peter Sheahan's (left) FL!P: Creative Strategies for Turning Challenge into Opportunity and Change into Competitive Advantage at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 26 at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

For ticket information, call Judy Chambliss at 540-983-0700 x221 or www.roanokeregionalforum.com.

Not yet 30 years old, Sheahan has built a multi-million dollar consulting practice attracting clients such as News Corporation, Google, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Harley Davidson and Ernst & Young. Sheahan has delivered more than 2,000 presentations to a combined audience of more than 300,000 people in eight different countries.

The author of six books, including the international bestsellers Fl!p: Generation Y, Sheahan focuses on teaching leaders and companies how to flip their thinking, make money in the cracks and find opportunity where others cannot.

His newest book Making It Happen unpacks his insights on how the best leaders and entrepreneurs execute on their good ideas, and turn them into profitable results.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chilean Students Claim Top Prize

The $25,000 first prize in the Global Student Business Concept Challenge has gone to a student team from Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, Chile. The concept the students pitched to potential investors was for Kimeltu, which produces a product that helps educators measure student performance.

The competition was part of a forum on student entrepreneurship put together by VT KnowledgeWorks. It ran for a week and the competition was held at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.

Bio-Sense Diagnostics, from Kent, England, and OOHLALA Mobile, of Toron won runnerup prizes of $5,000 each.

Eight Weekly Newspapers Sold to Local Group

The eight weekly newspapers that constituted Montgomery County Publishing and Blue Ridge Newspapers have been purchased by the former owner of two of them, Wane and Dolores Brockenbrough, principals of Montgomery Publishing.

It was a relatively quick sale, brought about when creditor Wells Fargo ordered the papers to be sold. The Brockenbroughs are former owners of the Radford News Journal and the Montgomery County News Messenger. They picked up the Salem Times-Register, Fincastle Herald, Vinton Messenger, Cave Spring Connection and New Castle Record.

According to a story in the current issue of the newspapers, Brockenbrough is quoted as saying employees will retain their jobs and there will be no disruption in the publishing schedule. In addition to the newspapers, the printing operation in Salem was also purchased.

The newspaper group had been owned for a number of years by investors from Birmingham, Ala. The sale returns them to local ownership.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wells Fargo Arrives in Roanoke

Wells Fargo Market President Harvey Brookins (red shirt on the stagecoach) helped usher in the transfer of Wachovia to Wells Fargo August 25 in downtown Roanoke.

That is Brookins' wife Sharisse in the red top photographing him and Mayor David Bowers is in the white suit riding shotgun. A large crowd lined Campbell Avenue to watch the coach and four horses parade by with the Patrick Henry High School band.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FreightCar America Sells NS 1,500 More Cars

From Left FreightCar America's Ed Whalen; Secretary of Commerce Jim Cheng; and NS's Wick Moorman.

These new cars are stronger, lighter and more durable.

Story, Photos by DAN SMITH

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers paused for emphasis, listened to the noisy yard at FrieghtCar America's East End Shops facility and said, "That clang is a good sound. It indicates a rebound in the economy in Roanoke."

In this case, it also means 200 more jobs, 1,500 more coal cars for Norfolk Southern Railway, and an indication that the giant railroad with a long Roanoke history believes the future is good. In fact, NS CEO Wick Moorman said as much: "It is with high confidence in the future of the coal market that we have chosen to continue our program to upgrade our coal fleet by ordering these new coal cars."

Bowers and Moorman shared the podium at a morning press conference today with FreightCar America President/CEO Ed Whalen and Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng. They said the things you'd expect at one of these back-slapping events, but it was Bowers who framed the reference strongly: this is about jobs, good jobs, stable jobs, jobs in private industry making things.

There will be 200 more jobs in this round of the order for what will finally be 3,000 cars. Cheng put the cost estimate for 1,500 cars at $100 million.

The cars are large capacity, lightweight (good for NS fuel consumption), strong and durable (good for NS long-term expenses).

'Outsiders' Boosting Region's Population

More people from outside the Roanoke Region are moving here, helping to increase the region’s population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Data suggests that the majority of population growth experienced in the region is due to migration from other regions of the state and the nation.

Weldon Cooper Center estimates show that 87.5 percent of population growth in the Roanoke Region is due to migration, compared to just 47 percent statewide. “This is telling us that people are recognizing that the Roanoke Region is an outstanding place to work, with a high quality of life and low cost of living,” says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “These days, with high unemployment in other areas of the country, traffic jams around big cities and unattainable home ownership in many markets, families and businesses are seeking more attractive options like the Roanoke Region.

“In this 21st Century economy, many families and entrepreneurs are also looking for amenities we already enjoy: easy access to the outdoors, a variety of outdoor-related activities and a climate that lets them enjoy nature year-round.”

Though the region’s rate of annualized growth averaged a mere 0.3 percent between 2000 and 2003, its growth rate more than doubled by the end of the decade. Annualized growth rates for the region averaged 0.8 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to Weldon Cooper Center data.

Compared with the rest of Virginia, the Roanoke Region’s growth rate was a full percentage point below the state between 2000-2003 but now trails the Commonwealth’s rate by only four-tenths of a percentage point in the last three years, signaling improvement.

According to Internal Revenue Service data, the Roanoke Region has attracted roughly 2,800 households each year from out of state. Nearly 55 percent of these households come from the South, 18.5 percent of these households from the Northeast, 15.7 percent from the Midwest, and 10.9 percent from the West Coast.

IRS figures also reveal a healthy amount of migration from surrounding counties in Virginia as well as from traffic-choked Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

“With growth at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute under way, it’s possible that future migration statistics will show an increased level of migration to the region,” Doughty says.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Falls by Elderly Focus of Tech, UVa Study

Karen Roberto (from left), Thurmon Lockhart,and Dong Ha are working on a project to stem elderly falls.

Virginia Tech and University of Virginia scientists have taken note that among Americans age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. Falls also are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.

In 2007, more than 18,000 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among elderly adults were treated in emergency rooms and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Researchers at Tech and UVa are hoping to stem this tide. With a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Smart Health and Wellbeing Program, they are creating a portable fall prediction monitoring system for early detection of fall risks that can provide early diagnosis and treatment before a fall occurs to reduce long-term health effects and injuries, and ultimately, help stave off death.

Users likely would wear the device as a faux piece of jewelry on a piece of clothing or around an ankle. It will measure potentially small declining increments in gait, posture, and mobility of a patient, major indictors that can help point to a future fall, says Thurmon Lockhart, an associate professor with the Virginia Tech Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering<, part of the College of Engineering.

“I believe we could really help some people, that is the reason for this program, helping save lives” says Lockhart, who also is director of the Virginia Tech Locomotion Research Lab, and has worked with dozens of U.S. companies – including delivery giant UPS – in training workers in fall training safety.

Joining Lockhart on the research project from Virginia Tech are Dong Ha, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Karen Roberto, professor of human development and director of the Center for Gerontology and the Institute for Society Culture and Environment. Also joining the study is John Lach, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The two universities will share the grant, with $750,000 going to Virginia Tech, and $450,000 to University of Virginia. “Our focus is on preventative measures,” Roberto says. “The idea is to identify with some confidence those older adults most at risk for falling before they actually fall. With this type of information, facilities could implement safety measures and work with those individuals to prevent and reduce fall accidents.”

The federal grant money is a pittance compared to the health care costs associated with falls among the elderly, said Lockhart. In 2005, the latest numbers available from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, direct medical costs of falls totaled more than $19 billion and fatal fall costs $349 million.

With inflation, skyrocketing health care costs and the aging of the baby-boomer generation, these numbers likely are to dramatically increase. An early prototype of the sensor already has been built and tested under a previous National Science Foundation funded project by Lockhart and Lach.

The newer project will develop a monitoring system called “ROOP-Alert” for Remote Observation Operating Platform. It will bridge gait and posture analysis, body sensor networks, low-power radio frequency wireless communication, and gerontology.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Home Sales Up In July Over Last Year in Roanoke Valley

Realtors in the Roanoke Valley got some good news yesterday from the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors. Its report for July 2011 says sales increased 23.9 percent over July of last year, even though the sale price dropped to $176,289, nearly $15,000 less than a year ago.

There were 342 home sales in the Roanoke Valley last month and 276 in the same month in 2010.

Friday, August 12, 2011

TREAD To Expand in Botetourt County

Botetourt Administrator Gerry Burgess (left) Accepts $100,000 check from Gov. Bob McDonnell for the TREAD expansion.

TREAD Corp., a manufacturer of bulk handling equipment for the explosives industry will invest $5 million to expand its operations in Botetourt County, creating 100 new jobs. The expansion will take place at the EastPark Commerce Center.

Speaking at a news conference today at Greenfield Education and Training Center, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said, “Botetourt County has been home to TREAD Corporation’s corporate, sales and support, and manufacturing operations since 2004. The company has experienced tremendous growth operating equipment all over the world from Botetourt, and appreciates the ample workforce found in the region. We are thrilled that TREAD will continue to expand.”

TREAD plans to begin its expansion by the third quarter of 2011 and create at least 100 jobs within 36 months. The average wage for the new jobs will be $17.50 per hour plus benefits. The project’s investment will be a minimum of $5 million, of which approximately $4.75 million will be in building and infrastructure with the balance in machinery and tools within 36 months. Square footage of the expansion, including manufacturing space, staging area and parking, has yet to be determined.

The new jobs are primarily production oriented with skills focused on but not limited to welding and mechatronics. “Our location in Botetourt County strategically positions the company to service the global explosives equipment market," says Phil Bortz, vice president, worldwide sales. "TREAD is fortunate to have a skilled work force, which when coupled with economic opportunities, provides the resources to grow the business and serve our customers’ needs.”

TREAD, a privately held company founded in 1957, has operated from its current facility since 2004. The company, with 170 current employees, has added about 65 jobs since June 2010.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Carilion Clinic Shuffles Executive Deck

Carilion Clinic has made several key appointments to its leadership group. They are:

Melina Perdue has been named executive vice president. Perdue previously served as Senior Vice President with responsibility for Carilion's community hospitals. In her new role she will assume responsibility for regional primary care in addition to her existing responsibilities.

Carolyn Chrisman has been named senior vice president. Chrisman previously served as Vice President for quality and process improvement. In her new role, Chrisman will develop Carilion's new Innovation Center, an initiative to further advance quality and process improvements.

Jeanne Armentrout has been named senior vice president with responsibility for Human Resources. Armentrout previously served as Vice President.

Paul Davenport has been named vice president with responsibility for the Department of Emergency Services. Davenport previously served as Senior Director of Carilion Clinic Patient Transportation. His will continue to lead Carilion's patient transportation services in his new role.

Charles “Chuck” Carr has been named vice president of administration for Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital. Carr has served on the CSJH board of directors since 1998 and on the Carilion Clinic board since 2004. He comes to CSJH with over 25 years of leadership experience at both Reeves Brothers and Modine Manufacturing Company.

John Piatkowski, M.D., has been named vice president of administration for Carilion New River Valley Medical Center. Dr. Piatkowski comes to Carilion from HealthEast Care System in Saint Paul, Minn., where he served as vice president and executive medical director.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hotel Roanoke Finishes Courtyard Renovation

The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center recently completed a $200,000 renovation of the open air Garden Courtyard. Completing another renovation in a progression of renovations since 2008 that has seen updates and improvements of all guest rooms, corridors, public areas and conference center space, event planners and guests are presented the natural world in an urban setting in this newly developed space.

The Garden Courtyard features 6,270 sq. feet of multi-dimensional space, seating for up to 250 guests, a focal point gazebo that is perfect for numerous applications, as well as a designated lounge area surrounded by the beautiful garden plantings and the warmth of a cozy fire.

“We are extremely proud of the look and feel that this renovation has added to our historic Hotel, bringing our overall investment to the facility since 2008 to $8.5 million" says Gary Walton, general manager of The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. "This renovation builds upon the hotel's premier status as a destination and meeting facility in southwest Virginia and creates another ideal location for important events; a long standing and honored tradition for our hotel in this city."

Previously the under-used space which once served as the former Crystal Ballroom now features the amenities and attractions that event planners seek for outdoor events with the luxury of having inclement weather options within The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Roanoke College Aesthetics Recognized

Roanoke College has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, according to students surveyed by The Princeton Review. The annual guidebook also lists Roanoke among the nation’s great schools for majors in business and finance, computer science and computer engineering and psychology.

The College’s scenic setting, marked by its classic Collegiate Gothic architecture and mountain views, was No. 18 in a ranking of the top 20 beautiful colleges and universities that is published in the 2012 edition of The Princeton Review’s Best 376 Colleges. The book, in its 20th edition, was released on Aug. 2.

Roanoke debuts in this well-known guidebook that lists enrollment and admission statistics, rankings of the top 20 schools in 62 categories and survey results from 122,000 students attending undergraduate institutions named to the publication’s prestigious honor roll.

Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen Opens Friday

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen will hold a ribbon-cutting at 3938 Melrose Avenue in Roanoke Friday, Aug. 5 at 11 a.m.

“We are so pleased with our location and the staff working with us," says franchise co-owner, Keith Solomon. "The restaurant has been very well received by the community and we are excited to make Roanoke the home of our first store in Virginia.”

Popeyes Louisiana Chicken sells a full line of bone-in and boneless chicken, shrimp, catfish, and more, with a Cajun or Creole twist. Side dishes include red beans and rice, jambalaya and Cajun battered French fries. The Roanoke location offers both eat-in, patio dining. The 3,500 square-foot restaurant brings 80 jobs to Roanoke, 45 which are full-time, and represents a $750,000 investment in the City of Roanoke.