Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Betsy Parkins: PRSA's Illuminator

Betsy Parkins
Betsy Parkins, director of social media at Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, has received the Illuminator Award from the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
The award is given annually to a member who “is a bright spot in the group, who lights up the organization with positive attitude and many contributions.

Parkins has served as professional development chair for a chapter of more than 80 public relations and marketing professionals in western Virginia.

“We’re immensely proud of Betsy and her recognition for what many of our clients already know – Betsy has many bright ideas that are making a difference, whether for a professional organization or a marketing challenge,” said Roger Neathawk, CEO. “This award, symbolized by a giant light bulb, is the perfect icon for Betsy’s many contributions.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Expansion Set at Homestead Creamery; 20 New Jobs

Homestead Creamery's Farm Market Store
Franklin County-based Homestead Creamery, known for its home delivery, plans to expand its facilities and introduce a line of cheeses as part of a $1.1 million expansion supported by a new state grant designed to support Virginia’s agricultural industry.

The expansion is expected to create 20 new full-time jobs over three years at the dairy’s Franklin County production facility.

Announcing the expansion at Homestead, Viginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said, “Awarding the first-ever Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID) grant to a company like Homestead Creamery ...  is the perfect way to launch this new program from my administration’s economic development and jobs creation agenda.

"Homestead is just the type of company for which this program was built, one that can take the high-quality agricultural products Virginia has to offer and turn them into value-added products consumers are seeking. I’m certain the AFID will provide further growth opportunities for Virginia’s diverse agricultural economy, the Commonwealth’s largest industry.”

Homestead will receive a $60,000 grant through the fund, established this year by the General Assembly as a new economic development tool to help incentivize the creation or expansion of businesses that use Virginia agricultural and forestry products, particularly in rural areas.

The expansion also is made possible by a $45,000 grant through the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and a Franklin County grant of $30,000. The company will also receive training assistance from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.


Women's Foundation Presents Record Award Amounts

Pictured recipients (from left): Mark Powell and Duane D’Ardenne, Roanoke Community Garden Association; Kathy Chittum and Mary Jean Levin, Grandin Theatre Foundation; Jenny Neel and Denise Yopp, Bethany Hall; Tonia Drewery and Ana Smith Goller, Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley

The Roanoke Women’s Foundation (RWF), a component fund of Foundation for Roanoke Valley, has announced four recipients of its grant awards, at $262,000 the largest total given to date.

The latest grants presented in December, bring to $1,506,000 the total in grants funded since the organization’s inception in 2004.

“In our eighth year, with 131 members, The Roanoke Women’s Foundation has now exceeded over $1.5 million in total giving; a significant achievement this year in a down economy” says Kandy Elliott, co-founder of the RWF.  Elliott and co-founder Ginny Jarrett established the RWF as a way for women in the Roanoke and New River Valleys to pool their philanthropic goals and resources in order to make significant gifts to the community.

“The growth of The Roanoke Women’s Foundation over the years has been exceptional, and these latest awards continue the tradition that RWF has built of making high-impact, transformative grants,” added Alan Ronk, executive director of Foundation for Roanoke Valley.

Now in its eighth year, RWF has funded 30 organizations and programs.  This year, 48 organizations applied for funding from the RWF.  Through a rigorous grant making process, that number was narrowed to a group that was presented to the membership for their vote.  Based on those results, the following grants were awarded in the 2012 grant cycle: 

Bethany Hall, Inc. - $60,000 to support its “Kitchen Renovation” project for the women in their residential and day treatment substance abuse program.  Their kitchen is at the heart of this healing community; last year it produced 10,863 meals and provided an empowering opportunity to create baked goods and treats used in the women’s fundraising efforts.  Existing appliances and cabinetry are woefully inadequate.  This funding will include upgrading appliances to commercial quality, new cabinets, and a moveable work table.  Bethany Hall is only one of two single-gender, long term programs in Virginia that allow children and newborns to remain with their mothers in treatment. 

Grandin Theatre Foundation, Inc. - $95,000 to upgrade their 35 mm projection equipment to digital equipment.  While 35 mm film was the movie industry standard for over 100 years, in the near future it will no longer be a viable technology.  This grant will enable the Grandin to remain competitive and viable in order to show newly released films.  The Roanoke Women’s Foundation grant will help to offset the total project cost of $275,000. The Grandin will launch a public campaign to raise additional funding needed to complete the conversion. 

Roanoke Community Garden Association - $70,000 to provide funds to design, build and start the Association’s fourth garden, The Mountain View Garden.  The garden will be built on the adjacent vacant lot by the Mountain View Community Center.  The new garden will serve the Mountain View, Grandin Road, Old Southwest and downtown neighborhoods.  The gardens increase locally grown organic food or hundreds of underprivileged and handicapped citizens as well as refugees and immigrants.  Residents who register to use a plot are asked to pay $20 and volunteer an hour a week to help maintain their bed and help others.  This location provides a flat plot and plenty of space for aspiring gardeners. 

Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley - $37,000 to partially fund a staff attorney designated as the domestic violence specialist. The balance of funds needed will be provided through another grant and general funds.  Domestic violence is a persistent problem in our communities.  Reported cases have risen dramatically (45.9% in 2010).  Intervention can save a victim’s life, save her or his home and the home of any children involved, and has an impact beyond those immediately involved.  Legal Aid is the only organization in the valley that provides a full range of legal representation to victims of domestic violence. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Seven Montgomery Winners Among Gap 50

The Center for Innovative Technologies (CIT) announced the winners of the Gap 50 Entrepreneur Awards today in Herndon.  Part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s “Year of the Entrepreneur” initiative, the statewide program is intended to identify and celebrate Virginia’s next generation of entrepreneurs who are creating high-growth companies.  Winners from Montgomery County include: 

Hussein Ahmed, Founder and CEO of, Blacksburg. 

Coming from Egypt to Virginia, Hussein got his PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Tech. Staying in Blacksburg, he joined VTLS Inc. as a Software Engineer making his way up to Engineering Manager in two years. Hussein started a number of businesses with thousands of users and several press coverages. He was named this year by Roankoe Times as "Coders Rockstar" and his last startup was selected from among 174 as a finalist in Evernote's 2012 Devcup competing next for the Grand Prize in San Fancisco. 

Doug Juanarena, Vice President of RackSpace Hosting, Blacksburg. 

Doug Juanarena has been a serial entrepreneur for the past 35 years as a founder & CEO of three sensor and instrumentation startups. In 2005, he founded GenTek Ventures to mentor startup founders and help raise private equity. He is a board member for the Va Tech/ Carilion NewVa venture capital fund. Over the past 25 years, he has been a board member and director of a number of technology advocacy groups and University advisory boards. 

Nathan Latka, Co-founder and CEO of Heyo, Blacksburg. 

Learning from Warren Buffet, and desiring larger profit margins and visibility, Nathan taught himself FBML. This followed the launch of Fan Page Factory which dominated as the major provider of customized Fan Pages for small business.He headed sales, social marketing, and community engagement. Eventually, he couldn’t personally handle all of the work the Fan Page Factory brand was creating. He then partnered with Brian Putt and Joshua Gunter to launch Lujure. The Lujure platform is a DIY drag and drop fan page customization tool. Nathan heads sales, marketing, and product development under his CEO title. 

Peter Lazar, CEO of eBroselow, Blacksburg. 

Peter Lazar is co-founder of eBroselow, LLC. With partners Dr. Jim Broselow (the inventor of the Broselow Tape) and Dr. Bob Luten, Lazar developed a web and mobile-based clinical support system for hospitals and EMS. Launched in 2010 and now licensed to over 150 hospitals and over 7000 medical professionals, Lazar hopes it will save many lives by preventing medical errors. Formerly, Peter Lazar founded an award-winning mobile video technology and successful web development company.

Jack Lesko, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.  

Jack serves as the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies in VT’s College of Engineering and is co-founder and principle of PowerHub Systems, a 2008 startup headquartered in the VT Corporate Research Center. Through this startup experience with PowerHub, Jack is working with the university community and the local startup ecosystem to support students and faculty developing new technology based ventures through structured and practical entrepreneurial training opportunities. 

Caroline Pugh, COO of VirtualU, Blacksburg. 

Caroline is the COO and Co-Founder of VirtualU, a company based on integrating 3D human modeling technology into the e-commerce industry. Caroline is the former President of the Virginia Tech Entrepreneur Club where she raised a record amount of over $11,000 for the club, organized the annual student team competition (VT $5K), helped to introduce the first entrepreneurship classes with in the College of Science and host weekly week networking and speaking events. Currently working with university officials and entrepreneurs to help build an Entrepreneurship Center at Virginia Tech that would help fund innovative technologies and help commercialize them. To build entrepreneurship on a more national and global level, Caroline serves as the President for the DC region and Director of Partnerships for Kairos Society, one of the largest and most prominent, student run entrepreneurship organizations.

Bob Summers, Chief Geek of Friendeo, Blacksburg. 

Bob Summers has developed and marketed commercial software applications for consumers and enterprises since 1994. He is currently Chief Geek @ Friendeo, his fifth startup. Mr. Summers has a BS in computer engineering from Virginia Tech and MBA from MIT Sloan. He is founder of 460 Angels and TechPad.
CIT President and CEO Pete Jobse was quoted in a press release as saying:  “We are honored to recognize these entrepreneurs today as part of the Year of the Entrepreneur and the CIT GAP 50 Entrepreneur Awards.  They represent Virginia’s thriving community of innovative entrepreneurs who are laying the foundation for a bright economic future.”

Winners from Roanoke include:     Eddie Amos, senior vice president and CTO, Meridium; Kevin Bloomfield, president and CEO, NetVentures; and Sam English, president and CEO, Attention Point, Roanoke. 

Over 800 entrepreneurs from across Virginia were nominated for the CIT Gap 50 Entrepreneur Awards.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sarah Beth Jones Cited as FRONT's Top Contributor for 2012

Contributor of the year Sarah Beth Jones.
Top columnist Mike Miller with Publisher Tom Field.
Editor's Awatd winner Randolph Walker.
Valley Business FRONT presented its writer awards todayat Hunting Hills Country Club for 2012 and Sarah Beth Jones took the top prize as Contributor of the Year.
Laura Purcell

Sarah was cited for the overall excellence of her work, including two cover stories that were finalists for Story of the Year.

That award went to Laura Purcell for her story "Unions!" Sarah Beth's story, "Tattoos," was the runnerup.

Mike Miller, the FRONT's technology columnist, was named Columnist of the Year and Randolph Walker won the Editor's Award.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preservation Foundation Issues 2012 Awards

Winners of the Preservation Foundation's Annual Awards at the Transportation Museum tonight.
Restaurants, a renovated service station, downtown lofts, a restored locomotive, a garden club and the Fitzpatrick family are among the 11 recipients of awards presented by Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation at its 2012 annual meeting Thursday.

Each year, the Foundation calls attention to the values of restoring and reusing older structures, encourages stewardship of these buildings and also recognizes environmental projects and individual achievement. “This year’s list has a great deal of diversity—both in building types, recipients and location—which speaks to the vibrancy of preservation in the valley,” said Alison Blanton, Foundation president.

The awards include the typical downtown development projects, as well as new building types such as a gas station and new areas like Williamson Road and Wasena. A family and two civic organizations are recognized for their efforts to preserve local history in its various forms.

The River House
“We are especially excited to give awards to two projects—1222 Campbell Avenue, SW, and Mill Mountain—which were previously on our endangered sites list,” Blanton said.   
The 11 awards recipients:
  •             16 West Marketplace, 16 W. Church Ave.
  •             Carlin’s Amoco Station, 1721 Williamson Road
  •             Woolworth Building, 24-28 Campbell Ave, SW
  •              River House, 806 Wasena Ave., SW
  •              River and Rail Restaurant, 2201 Crystal Spring Ave., SW
  •              Lofts at West Station, 357 Salem Ave., SW
  •              1222 Campbell Ave., SW
  •              Habitat for Humanity, Hurt Park, Old Southwest neighborhoods
  •              Chesapeake Western diesel engine 662, Virginia Museum of Transportation
  •              Mill Mountain Garden Club, Mill Mountain Park
  •              Helen Fitzpatrick and sons Beverly Jr., Eric and Broaddus
              116 West, Carlin’s Amoco, Woolworth Building, River House, River and Rail and the Lofts were cited for adaptive reuse; 1222 Campbell, for renovation; Habitat for Humanity, for renovation and compatible infill development; Engine 662, restoration; Mill Mountain Garden Club, environmental stewardship, and the Fitzpatrick family, lifetime achievement.
Carlin’s Amoco station was built in 1947 and operated as a gas service station until the 1980s when it remained vacant until Berglund Automotive Group bought it in 1998 and began renovating it for office space. Among the original details preserved and restored are the entrance pylon with glass block strips, large display windows and garage doors. The station is a symbol of the development of Williamson Road as a center for auto sales and service.
16 West
 Bill Elliot bought two vacant, adjoining Woolworth buildings, dating from the early 1900s, and converted them into three commercial spaces, 11 apartments and an interior garage. The art deco buildings housed a confectionary, hardware store and later Woolworth, until it closed in 1994. The buildings had a number of design challenges, such as a four-foot difference in elevation from one side to another. In 1949, the buildings were encased in light, beige brick, with stone coping and aluminum storefront.
The River House was a cold storage operation, Roanoke’s main source of ice, from the early 1920s until the 1990s. Developer Ed Walker has renovated the formerly vacant building for 128 apartment units, a restaurant and tap house and a rock climbing wall. The structure overlooks Roanoke River and its greenway in the Wasena neighborhood.
Whit and Lauren Ellerman and Kari and Lee Atwood have converted the former Lipes Pharmacy in the Crystal Spring neighborhood of South Roanoke into River and Rail Restaurant. The pharmacy operated from 1929 until it closed in 2011. The only exterior change in the rehabilitation was addition of an awning on the front façade. An old Lipes Pharmacy logo and storefront aluminum were retained.
Campbell Ave. home
Bill Chapman, a Richmond developer, took a four-story warehouse built in 1903 for Lindsey-Robinson, a milling company, along with an adjoining 1912 warehouse for Victory Specialty Co., and produced 71 apartment units, a movie theater and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer’s restaurant, with an outdoor dining patio. Natural light for the interior was provided by an atrium, used as a model by the National Park Service.

In another John Garland project, a long-vacant craftsman bungalow at 1222 Campbell has been renovated as a home for his son, Aaron Garland and his wife. The 96-year-old house retains such architectural details as exposed rafters, soffits, original plaster and wood floors and restored wood casement windows.

Habitat for Humanity has been constructing compatible, residential infill and renovating historic homes in the Hurt Park and Old Southwest neighborhoods since 2009. Habitat is contributing to the integrity and character of neighborhoods, in addition to providing a home for a deserving family. New homes are compatible with existing houses and those renovated kept many original features, such as hardwood floors, leaded glass transoms and mantle pieces. Twelve new homes and three renovations have been completed.

Diesel-Electric Engine 662, built in 1946 when steam locomotives were replaced, was restored by the Roanoke chapter of the National Railway Historical Society at Virginia Museum of Transportation. The engine was used by Chesapeake Western Railway in the Shenandoah Valley until it was retired in 1964 and left rusting as one of the “Lost Engines of Roanoke” at Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal. That firm donated the engine, an outstanding example of an historically accurate cosmetic rail restoration, to the museum.
Carlin's Amaco
 Mill Mountain Garden Club has maintained a wildflower garden on a 2.5-acre tract atop Mill Mountain for almost 40 years. The club recently planted five blight-resistant chestnut trees there and installed a chestnut “education box” to dispense information about the endangered trees. The club has provided a water recycling system, plant markers, a woodland outdoor classroom and many native wildflowers, shrubs and trees.
The family of the late Judge Beverly T. Fitzpatrick has made many contributions to the Roanoke Valley. The judge was a leader in restoration of the high school as the Jefferson Center. Helen Fitzpatrick has written many notes of celebration, encouragement and sympathy for years. She has been an elder and Bible teacher at Second Presbyterian Church, a reader for the blind and a community supporter. Of her three sons, Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Jr., has led the Transportation Museum to a strong position as a repository of trains, planes and all forms of transportation. A former vice mayor and City Council member, he has held executive posts in banking and education.
Diesel 622
Eric Fitzpatrick, an award-winning artist, has won recognition for paintings with both his right and left hands. His works in oils, watercolors and pastels of landscapes, seascapes and Valley events, are widely held. Washington & Lee University produced a film of his work. Broaddus Fitzpatrick, an environmentalist and retired lawyer, has held leadership roles in Western Virginia Land Trust, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway and he worked as a conservation easement specialist. He served on the Blue Ridge Soil and Water District board and has worked on wind energy, mountaintop coal removal and uranium mining issues.
 The awards were presented at the annual meeting of the Foundation at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. 

Wayne Henderson, leading petroleum industry historian from North Carolina, talked on the historic gasoline stations of Roanoke. Henderson maintains the world's largest information and photo archives on gas stations and has authored or co-authored 16 books about petroleum industry history and petroleum collectibles. 

Startup Virginia Starts Up Tonight in Roanoke

Roanoke's first StartUp Virginia group has been organized as an initiative of the White House to provide guidance, support, and solutions to help small business owners manage and grow their business.

Samantha Steidle of Business Lounge
Startup America was launched at the White House in response to a call to foster the growth of entrepreneurship. Samantha Steidle of the Roanoke Business Lounge will launch StartUp Virginia here in the Roanoke/Blacksburg region.

“Innovation is key to local success,” says Steidle. “StartUp Virginia is focused on making Roanoke a great place to start and grow small businesses.” The goal is to strengthen our local and state entrepreneurial ecosystem."

The first “StartUp MeetUp” event in downtown Roanoke will be held Thursday, November 29 (tonight), 2012 at 5 p.m. at Blue 5 Restaurant to celebrate the launch of StartUp Virginia in the Roanoke/Blacksburg region.

 Group members share resources to improve everyone's chances of success. Sponsors of Roanoke StartUp MeetUp include Roanoke Business Lounge, Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center, Downtown Roanoke, Inc., StartUp Virginia and Blue Ridge Copier.

"We're looking for a core group of entrepreneurs stepping up to say, 'I get it,'" says Donna Harris, "Where we have that, we will launch a region. No one owns it. It's a team of co-leaders."

"We also need to ask entrepreneurs what they need,' adds Harris "One thing startups have told us they need is mentors. Does your community have breadth and depth of mentors?" If you are interested in supporting or starting a small business please contact Roanoke

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tech Approves Unique Real Estate Program

Beginning in the fall of 2013 Virginia Tech will offer a Bachelor of Science Degree program in real estate, becoming the nation’s first interdisciplinary undergraduate program to include academic strengths in architecture, building construction, business, applied economics, engineering, property management, and natural resources management.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors unanimously approved a resolution to create this new degree program during its quarterly meeting today. The new program, pending approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, will prepare students with the decision making, risk-evaluation, ethical-behavior, negotiation, communication, team-work, analytical and leadership skills to become leaders in the complex real estate industry that faces diminished public confidence following the recent market collapse and the challenge of building sustainable living and work space for a growing population.

EventZone, Roanoke End Long Affiliation

Festival in the Park is a signature event for EventZone
Roanoke City has ended its 43-year affiliation with EventZone, which produced several of its festivals and events. Jill Sluss, executive director of EventZone, says she welcomes the opportunities presented by opening up the field for the organization to pursue other localities to work with. Downtown Roanoke Inc. will take over organizing Roanoke's festivals and events.

Said Sluss, "With the temporary closing of Elmwood Park, we have been concerned about adequate facilities for our signature events. This decision opens the door to endless possibilities for partnering with other localities. We are excited at the enormous opportunity this presents."

She added that EventZone will continue to produce events such as Festival in the Park, the Cabin Fever Series and Party in the Park. The change will be adding new venues capable of hosting EventZone's events."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Localities to the Rescue of SPCA in Roanoke Area

The Roanoke Valley SPCA and area municipalities today jointly announced an agreement to create a new entity to operate the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection.

“In agreement with the City of Roanoke, counties of Roanoke and Botetourt, and the Town of Vinton, the Roanoke Valley SPCA board has decided that it’s in the best long-term interest of all parties to let the local jurisdictional owners assume operational responsibility of the regional center,” says Chris Morrill, Roanoke’s city manager.

Barbara Dalhouse, president of the RVSPCA’s board of directors, says: “Given the public confusion over the current arrangement, we and the municipalities felt it was important for the RVSPCA to focus exclusively on its unwavering mission to improve the quality of life for animals and the people they touch in the Roanoke Valley.”

“The current facility was an important step forward for care of abandoned animals when it opened,” Morrill says. “With changing needs in the Roanoke Valley, we see this as an opportunity to consider innovative methods of achieving success in all areas of animal control, including enforcement, increasing adoptions, the encouragement of spay/neuter programs and the provision of humane sheltering for the animals.”

The RVSPCA has operated its education and adoption facility to better coordinate animal adoptions. Since 2004, the organization has placed 14,585 animals into adoption. In the past year alone, more than 11,000 distinct medical services were provided to animals in the care of both the RVSPCA and the regional center.

Over the next several months, the participating localities will work with the RVSPCA to transition control and operations of the regional center to a new board appointed by the local governments. The RVSPCA will continue to support the regional center with adoption services.

In addition, Morrill says local governments are reviewing their animal control policies and procedures in conjunction with the anticipated transition of the regional center’s operation.

“We believe this agreement will provide a sound structure for the future of the RVSPCA, eliminating an issue that has taken the focus away from what's most important – finding loving homes for our animals and promoting spaying and neutering as the best way to reduce the amount of unwanted pets,” Dalhouse said. “We look forward to working with the municipalities to ensure a smooth transition for the regional center and will continue to be available as a leading choice for animal adoption.”

Roanoke Hires Economic Development Director

Wayne Bowers, new Roanoke economic development director
Wayne Bowers has been named Director of the Department of Economic Development for the City of Roanoke.  As Economic Development Director, Bowers will manage and direct all activities involving economic development for the city.

"I am pleased to have Wayne Bowers lead our Economic Development team," says City Manager Chris Morrill.  "His long experience in local government will be a great asset to Roanoke as we continue to work to expand our existing business community and attract businesses to locate in our city."
Bowers holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C.; a Master of Arts degree in American history from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.
He has worked in local government since 1973, most recently as City Manager of the City of Greenville, N.C.  His work experience includes serving as Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Tallahassee, Fla.; City Manager of the City of Jacksonville Beach, Fla.; City Manager of the City of Huntington, W.Va.; City Manager of the City of Spartanburg, S.C.; City Manager of the City of Gainesville, Fla.
Bowers has been active in organizations such as the International City/County Management Association (ICMA); American Society for Public Administration; North Carolina City and County Management Association; North Carolina 911 Board; Pitt County United Way Board of Directors; and Greenville Noon Rotary Club.
He is an ICMA Credentialed Manager, and has served on the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (2004-2012); Pitt County Committee of 100 Board of Directors (2004-2012); North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) Tax & Finance Legislative Action Committee (2012); NCLM Planning & Services Legislative Action Committee (2005-2008); East Carolina University Master Plan Advisory Committee, (2008-2011); Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (1995-2004); Carolinas Innovation Group, founding member and Chairman (1989-1991); and the State of Florida Community Development Advisory Committee (1981-1983).


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

FedEx Breaks Ground for Roanoke Facility

FedEx Ground< broke ground yesterday on a new 103,000-square-foot distribution center to meet growing customer demand in the region.

The facility is at the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology and will be on property that had been occupied by a company making ceramic chip capacitors. The company’s $12.65 million investment is part of a nationwide expansion to boost daily package volume capacity and further enhance the speed and service capabilities of the FedEx Ground network.

The new facility will be able to process 50,000 packages per day, up nearly 30,000 from its current regional facility in Salem. The facility will dispatch 80 trucks daily from the new location.

The facility will be open in the fall of 2013 and 75 jobs from its existing facility will be transferred there. Fifty home delivery jobs will remain in Salem. Since 2005, FedEx Ground has opened 11 new hubs and expanded or relocated more than 500 local facilities. Since 2003, FedEx Ground has improved the transit time in more than two-thirds of its lanes by at least one business day.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Novozymes, Syngenta Reach Distribution Agreement

Novozymes, a bioinnovation company with a major plant in Roanoke, and Syngenta, one of the world’s leading agricultural companies, today announced an exclusive global marketing and distribution agreement on the microbial-based biofungicide Taegro, a natural solution with multiple modes of action used to combat fungal diseases across various crops.

The companies will join forces to bring Novozymes’ Taegro to farmers worldwide through Syngenta’s global organization. “This collaboration matches Syngenta’s global market strength and leading position within fungicides and integrated solutions with Novozymes’ deep know-how on sustainable, biobased technologies,” says Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President of Novozymes.

“Using technology developed by Novozymes, Syngenta will provide farmers all over the world with a biological product to help sustainably combat fungal diseases in a powerful manner.”

“We're delighted to enter into another agreement to commercialize a Novozymes technology. Having worldwide commercial rights for Taegro will further strengthen our ability to offer high-performing integrated crop solutions,” comments John Atkin, Chief Operating Officer of Syngenta.

Taegro offers a biological solution in the form of a microbial-based fungicide, based on the naturally occurring Bacillus subtilis bacterium, which is complementary to existing fungicide technology. It effectively targets fungal diseases such as Rhizoctonia and Fusarium on fruit and vegetables, and its application is expected to be expanded to a wider portfolio of broad-acre crops such as wheat, soy and corn. Under the terms of the agreement,

Novozymes and Syngenta will share the task of bringing Taegro to market. Syngenta will be responsible for sales, marketing and distribution, while Novozymes will be responsible for production and registration. Trials are planned to secure data to continue to build on the current U.S. registration in other regions, following which the two companies aim for a global rollout. Financial details about the agreement are not being disclosed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Anne Clelland To Present in D.C.

Handshake Media president Anne Giles Clelland will present “The Entrepreneurial Clinician: What Clinicians with Great Ideas for Health Care Mobile Apps Need to Know” during the mHealth Summit at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center near Washington, D.C. on December 5. She writes the Business Advice column for Valley Business FRONT.

Her address will be part of the session “What Goes into Making an Extraordinary mHealth App?” It will outline best practices in mobile entrepreneurship, and include a case study about Cognichoice(TM), the personal and social behavioral health application platform from Handshake Media.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Surprising Findings in Higher Education Center Survey

Crowd hears results of the survey

A study performed for the Roanoke Higher Education Center has revealed that 59 percent of the 377 local large businesses who responded have employees enrolled in college classes, an astonishing number. Many of those students are at the Higher Ed Center, among 2,100 students, about 80 percent of whom are in a degree or certificate program.

Tom McKeon
The survey, conducted by Clarus Corporation, also interviewed 400 adults who are interested in education and the conclusion was that 24 percent of them want to be in an educational program within the next two years, 30 percent are taking classes and 70 percent are working on a degree.

The study was conducted, says Higher Ed Center director Tom McKeon, "because we wanted to identify any gaps. There are implications for our current members [14 colleges and universities] to restructure or enhance their programming to meet the needs of adult students. This study is an opportunity to see where the gaps are so we can fill them ..."

The study reveals that the bachelor's degrees people are most interested have a heavy business emphasis (business, management, accounting) and that master's degrees also include business in the top three.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in the survey was that employers who plan to hire in the next two years are not looking for workers with degrees, except technical education certificates. Most, 65 percent, want people with high school or GED (43 percent) or technical (22 percent), but 19 percent said they would be satisfied with no education at all. Those wanting workers with degrees were five percent for junior college, 8.5 percent bachelor's and 1.4 percent advanced. That pretty well flies in the face of conventional wisdom. "What we're seeing," says McKeon, "is that companies want to hire the people, then invest in them" with further education.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

200 Manufacturing Jobs for Franklin County from Ply Gem

Ply Gem Windows of Cary, N.C., a manufacturer of window and door products for residential and light commercial construction, has announced the addition of 200 jobs and a significant capital investment at its Rocky Mount manufacturing facility by the end of 2014, reflecting an improvement in demand for the company’s products.

“The investment in the Rocky Mount facility will ensure the local community will benefit from our growth initiatives,” says Lynn Morstad, president of Ply Gem Windows, who made the announcement during a news conference today at the Franklin County Government Center. "Through these initiatives, we are looking to bring our job count at the Rocky Mount facility to 1,100 associates by the end of 2014.”

New hires will include such jobs as unit assemblers, coordinators, value stream leaders, process owners, process engineers, technicians and IT support.

“In addition to job creation, the investment in Rocky Mount is part of our company’s Enterprise Lean initiative, which includes manufacturing improvements such as new extrusion tooling, equipment, products and information technology,” said Morstad. “We are focused on enhancing Ply Gem’s product offering and customer experience to support planned growth from the housing market recovery, as well as improved market share from new customers and products. This expansion demonstrates the confidence we have in associates at the Rocky Mount facility to deliver superior products and service to customers throughout North America.”

The investment was made possible, in part, by grants from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, Franklin County and the Town of Rocky Mount. The company also is receiving assistance from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program through the Virginia Department of Business Assistance.

The current manufacturing facility was established in 1939 and acquired by Ply Gem in 2004. Over the years, the plant has manufactured a variety of products and today it is a manufacturer of  vinyl, vinyl-clad, aluminum-clad and wood windows and patio doors for residential and light commercial construction.
Ply Gem, the corporate parent of Ply Gem Windows, recorded more than $1 billion in sales in 2011.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Taubman Changes Model: Free Admission; Mickenburg Out as Executive Director

The new board of directors for the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke
Chairman Nick Taubman
The bumpy ride of the promising Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke--the $66 million facility that has been controversial since the day it was announced as a possibility--appears to be over because of the largess of some deep-pocket founders.

At a news conference this morning Board Chairman Nick Taubman of Advance Auto announced that the museum will no longer charge admission, depending instead on contributions from monied supporters--including Taubman and his wife Jenny and Heywood Fralin, three of the people most instrumental in the opening of the museum.

Haywood Fralin
A new board of directors has been appointed and because of that President/CEO David Mickenburg resigned. "When a new board is appointed, it deserves the right to pick its own director," said Mickenburg this morning. "This has been a great board to serve." Mickenburg, who says he and his wife have just closed on a house in Roanoke, plan to stay here and he wants to "reacquaint myself" with his wife.

CFO Kathryn Garvin is the interim director.

The new board--in addition to the Taubmans and Fralin are David Wine, William J. Lemon, Bittle Porterfield, Garnett Smith, Kent Greenwalt, Leon Harris, Nancy Agee, Stan Lanford, Tammy Finley and Debbie Meade.

Board Member Bill Elliott, who has been the interim president for a while, said Mickenburg "has done what he came here to do: create a first class museum. There has been a tremendous move forward under David.

"David has done everything the board asked him of him to implment our vision during the most difficult environment," said Taubman. "We commend his tireless efforts and thank him for helping to make the Taubman Museum of Art a showcase that touches so many people's lives."

David Mickenburg
The new board "has personally committed to securing the museum's fiscal future with significant final contributions," said a press release. Advance Auto Parts has chipped in $150,000 in operating expenses in order to get rid of the admission fee.

Taubman said, "The Taubman Museum of Art is a vital part of the fabric of our community. Every day it touches the lives of children, college students, art lovers, visitors, fellow cultural institutions and non-profit organizations throughout the Roanoke Valley and beyond.

"The museum has made strides over the past few years, expanding programming, welcoming new exhibitions, growing membership, offering more classes, and reaching out to build partnerships and relationships. The plan we are announcing today ensures a viable financial future for this special place ..."

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Celebration of Manufacturing at Frank Chervan Inc.

Frank Chervan Inc. President Greg Terrill (backed by Kellex executives) addresses their workers this morning.
Shaping the wood.
Wood stacked and waiting.
Circular table in a cutting room.
Chair assembly line.
Ready frames.
Freshly stained chairs.
A grouping of finished chairs.
Workers listen as they are celebrated by Chervan's top executive.
National Manufacturing Day at Frank Chervan Inc./Kellex in Roanoke was a celebration of the companies' 165 workers (with 2,280 collective years of experience) this morning.

Chervan moved in next door to Kellex five years ago (closing a big factory with 180 workers in Bedford) and their rise has been meteoric since with sales increasing steadily. The companies produce 500 to 1,000 chairs for the hospitality industry daily.

Chervan President Greg Terrill not only praised his gathered workers but predicted a strong comeback for U.S. manufacturing in the coming years. He says it is all but inevitable because the political and public support is there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Large Group from Region Finalists in Gap 50

Forty-six companies and individuals from the Roanoke Region are finalists for the Gap 50 Awards, including Handshake 2.0, which is owned by Anne Clelland, the Business Advice columnist for FRONT.

The Center for Innovation and Technology sponsors the awards, which go to 50 entrepreneurs who have created companies in life sciences, technology and energy. Finalists have received at least three nominations. there are 269 nominations from across the state.

Among other notables are Sam English of AttentionPoint, Cameron Johnson of Cameron Johnson Inc., Brandon Croy  of Cloud Conservatory, Nathan Latka of Lejure, Doug Juanarena of Rackspace, Johathan Hagamier of Interactive Achievement, Dave Malone of MoGo Mobile, Russ Ellis of Excellos, Ken Ferris of Brookwood Management (among many businesses), Bob Summers of Friendeo, Vinod Chachra of VTLS and many others, whom you can view here.

Atomic Axis Brings 30 New Jobs to Blacksburg

Atomic Axis, a mobile solutions company based in Austin, TX., announced today that it is establishing an office in Blacksburg. The company's new satellite office, which will be located at TechPad in downtown Blacksburg, will initially be targeted iOS development and creative roles.

Atomic Axis' decision to locate an office in Blacksburg is anticipated to result in the creation of 30 new jobs in Montgomery County over the next three year.

"Establishing an office in Blacksburg is a strategic move for our company," says Marcus Turner, CTO of Atomic Axis. "When deciding on a location, we found it to be a place where people want to live, collaborate with forward thinking institutions and contribute within a strong technical community. We believe that this is the ideal environment for our business."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roanoke Co-op Wants To Farm Again; Submits Proposal

Heritage Farm
Ten months after withdrawing its proposal to create an urban farm at the former Countryside Golf Course, Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op has submitted a proposal to Roanoke City Council to purchase 17.5 acres of land from the City of Roanoke to serve as the site for its urban farm.

The property – located on Blue Hills Drive off of 460 in Northeast Roanoke – was home to the Roanoke City Police Department’s Mounted Patrol until 2009. Along with a horse barn, a historic cabin sits on the property, which the Co-op intends to restore and highlight with plantings of heritage crops around the structure.

“The land has the look and feel of a country farm just a few miles from our store in the Grandin Village,” says Bruce Phlegar, General Manager of Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op. "The Co-op plan calls for a fruit orchard, honey, cut flowers, nursery and bedding plants, and off-season vegetable production using “high tunnel hoop houses.”

Free-range chickens will supply the Co-op with some egg production and fertilizer for the farm.  Since the group utilizes sustainable farming techniques, it will not use harmful commercial fertilizers or pesticides. The group is also proposing to lease from the City of Roanoke an additional 7.4 acres of nearby land for planting row crops.

Co-op officials say the 24.9 acres would be the largest contiguous urban farm in the United States.

Plans also call for an on-site farmers’ market, group tours as well as classes focusing on food and gardening. “We are excited to present our plans for a vibrant, productive urban farm,” Phlegar says. “Our farm will strengthen the local, sustainable food movement in the Roanoke Valley.”

The Co-op has already reviewed­­­ the proposal with the surrounding neighbors and has received their enthusiastic support. The Co-op has built a website,, where you can learn more about this proposal.

SoftSolutionts, Cenveo Reach Supply Agreement

SoftSolutions, Inc. today announced an agreement with Cenveo, Inc. to supply its award winning Flex integration platform to automate shop floor data collection, process management and ERP integration across Cenveo’s enterprise platform.

Flex by SoftSolutions offers real-time visibility between front office planning systems and shop floor operations, enabling decision makers with real-time updates throughout the day on how "Production-to-Plan" is going and where problems are developing as they happen.

Jay Foster
Cenveo will outfit its manufacturing facilities with the Flex intelligent shop floor management system to provide trustworthy data, standard workflows, real time control, enterprise-wide performance standards and KPI's.  Flex will also enable direct integration with multiple ERP systems across Cenveo’s core business units. Cenveo expects a strong ROI from Flex by enabling a more quantitative war on waste that further improves operating margins and cash flow from operations.

Pete Popovics, Cenveo’s Vice President of Safety and Environmental Affairs, says “We look forward to expanding our relationship with SoftSolutions and implementing Flex across our entire platform. We have had great success in several facilities within our print segment and anticipate similar results across our envelope, labels, and packaging business segments. The ability to have real time operational data will allow us to better manage our operations, reduce our waste, and help us to maintain our strategy of being the low cost producer.”

Jay Foster, President and CEO of SoftSolutions says, "We are excited to expand our existing relationship with an industry leader such as Cenveo. We have had the pleasure of serving Cenveo for over three years. Cenveo has an amazing leadership team, combined with a culture of employee ownership and accountability. This corporate level agreement will allow SoftSolutions to further serve Cenveo’s vision of an enterprise-wide production management platform that delivers easy access to real-time visibility and trustworthy data for their decision makers."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fralin, Smoot in Hall of Fame

Heywood Fralin
Ray Smoot
Raymond Smoot of the Virginia Tech Foundation and W. Heywood Fralin of Medical Faclities of America, among other things, have been named to the  Junior Achievement Southwest Virginia Buisness Hall of Fame. They will be inducted at a dinner at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center Nov. 12.

Fralin, a University of Virginia graduate with a law degree from American University, spent years in the law in Roanoke. When his brother Horace died, he became a partner in Fralin & Waldron, Horace's firm. Since 1995, the company has grown into three distinct businesses that include 40 nursing facilities with 7,000 employees.

Fralin has been a notable supporter of the education and of non-profits through the Horace C. Fralin Charitable Trust. He recently gave his American art collection to the Fralin Art Museum at the Universty of Virginia and he was among the founders of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.

Smoot, a Lynchburg native, is a Virginia Tech graduate and was president of the Student Government Association. He earned an English degree and a master's and PHD in educational administration. He landed at Tech as vice president of administration in 1975 and held leadership positions in administration until 2003 when he was named CEO of the Tech Foundation, managing investments, acquiring and managing real estate and large gifts. He has been in charge of the growth of the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, WVTF Public radio, the Via College of Osteopathic Medicine the Virginia tech Seafood Research Center and the Tech/Carilion Research Institute.

For ticket information please contact or call Junior Achievement at 989-6392.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Novelist Mary Johnston's Majestic Manor to Sell at Auction

Novelist Mary Johnston may not have the name recognition of a Stephen King, but in 1913, she was still riding high from the success of her novel, "To Have and to Hold." So when she built a magnificent manor and began hosting Virginia's upper crust there, it created a major stir.

And on Friday, Nov. 2, that manor house -- along with other properties that are part of the author's estate -- will sell at auction, with Woltz & Associates managing the sale.

"The author did what people do when they enjoy such success -- create something special and enduring," said Jim Woltz, president of the auction company.

"To Have and to Hold" was serialized in Atlantic Monthly in 1899 and topped the New York Times bestseller list in 1900. Her next book made No. 5 on the bestseller list, and she grew popular in Canada and England.

"The Three Hills Inn has operated as an inn for most of the time since 1917. Now someone will have an opportunity to  re-establish it as an elegant destination. The manor is magnificent, with approximately 12,500 square feet, including 14 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, four kitchens and six fireplaces. It was built in Italianate architectural style and has many of its original features, including a crystal chandelier, elegant woodworking and more," said Woltz.

The inn, along with seven other properties on 27 acres, will be sold absolute, with no minimum or reserve bid. "History permeates the estate. I'm excited with anticipation as to who will purchase it and what they will do with it. With the inn and the corporate meeting facility, this could be a very positive thing for the area as a complement to the renowned Homestead Hotel, which is just a few minutes away. We could have eight different buyers or one person purchasing all of it," said Woltz.

The auction will begin at 11 a.m. on Nov. 2 at the property, 348 Three Hills Lane, Warm Springs Lane. Individuals interested in additional information about the auction may visit or call 800-551-3588. Woltz & Associates, based in Roanoke, Va., is a leading auctioneer of commercial and residential properties and land throughout the United States, with an emphasis on the Mid-Atlantic region.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

State Contracts Often Exclude Local Contractors

Chip Woodrum: “Sealed bidding in almost all cases is better.”


One of the more significant issues facing the building community—especially the smaller businesses—is framed in a couple of acronyms: PPTA and PPEA.

Those are the Public Private Transportation Act and Public Private Education Act which take bidding out of the process of issuing state government road and education construction contracts. PPTA was passed in 1995 and PPEA followed later after some intense lobbying by some of Virginia’s largest general contractors and architectural/engineering firms, the companies that would (and have) benefit most. Contractors in this region generally will only comment off the record on the issue because, as one said, “If I spoke out, it could cost me any chance I have of ever getting any of those contracts.”

Off the record, though, they are furious about the large—and lucrative—contracts being consistently given to the same large firms. These smaller firms can actually counter the contract price once it is announced, but, as one contractor said, “You just don’t have the information to give an intelligent bid at that point. It would be a crap shoot, far too risky. That’s why it almost never happens.”

One Roanoke contractor said that larger firms hire marketing people specifically to develop relationships with localities or universities that are expected to have projects they want completed in the near or even far future. When the time comes to put an offer on the table, these companies get the call and “because it isn’t competitive, it usually costs a good bit more than it would under a bid process,” says a Roanoke contractor. “The owner likes it because the project can be done faster and without a lot of hassle and the contractor likes it because the profit margin is high.”

Elm Avenue interchange will get a $20 million facelift.
Former Virginia State Delegate Chip Woodrum (D-Roanoke) was among those who voted for the PPTA in 1995. Today, he opposes it. “Sealed bidding in almost all cases is better,” says Woodrum. “While it may sometimes be cumbersome and inconvenient, that is a small price to pay for transparency. The public always has a right to know how tax money is being spent. In the final analysis it’s their money.”

PPTA “was advanced as a way to marry the creative impulse of private enterprise with public money on large public projects and avoid the slower and more ponderous process of the Public Procurement Process, which included an advertised [request for proposal] and competitive sealed bidding. It was part of what I call the ‘Public Private Partnership Movement,’ which held that the sealed bid process was too bureaucratic and stifled creative approaches to public projects. I felt it presented a myriad of pitfalls to a proper procedure.”

Recent examples of the PPTA and PPEA include such non-educational and road projects as the Greenridge Recreation Center and the Roanoke Public Safety Building. The Blacksburg High School project came in at nearly $60 million under PPEA with Branch Construction of Roanoke getting the contract ($125 for three Montgomery County schools) and the reconstruction of Roanoke’s Elm Ave.-I-581 at $20 million were also under those programs. Most went to companies outside this region. The same is true for projects at the region’s colleges and universities, who spend a lot of money.

There is a loose confederation of smaller contractors who are working on getting PPTA and PPEA modified or repealed, but one member from this area laughed when asked if that was a possibility. “There’s a real inequity here and we want people to know it,” he says.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

(tba), ND&P Merge To Form Big Agency

Thomas Becher
Neathawk Dubuque & Packett (ND&P), a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations agency, today announced plans to acquire The Becher Agency (tba), creating one of the largest firms in the Roanoke Valley.

“We are delighted to grow our locally managed office with the acquisition of a well-respected and well-connected agency with particularly strong capabilities and award-winning results in public relations,” said Todd Foutz, executive vice president of ND&P.

“Our combined staffs,comprising some of the most talented and recognized advertising professionals in the region, will provide clients with unprecedented expertise in creative services, online interaction, social media, public relations and other communications that help businesses and organizations succeed.”

Thomas Becher, owner and president of The Becher Agency, will join ND&P as senior vice president, leading the combined company’s public relations and crisis communications practices. “We'll have seven full-time staff, including me, Chris Turnbull, Ariel Clark and Chris McAdams joining ND&P,” says Becher.

“One position was duplicate.” One of the primary reasons for the merger is simple, says Becher: “I'd like to spend more time with my children and being a business owner has made that increasingly difficult.”

“We look forward to bringing our expertise to a larger team of professional communicators to better serve a variety of organizations,” Becher says. “Both firms share a great deal of respect for each other, and we have previously worked together to provide outstanding service to mutual clients. We look forward to continuing to provide local, strategy-based creative solutions to a variety of clients in our region and beyond.”

The Becher Agency has offices at Warehouse Row, 119 Norfolk Ave., in downtown Roanoke and the Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg. Upon the transaction, Becher Agency employees will move into ND&P’s office at 410 S. Jefferson St. The combined company will retain the Blacksburg office to serve clients in the New River Valley.

Once the acquisition closes, ND&P will have 54 employees in Roanoke, Richmond, Chattanooga, Tenn., Charlotte and Durham, N.C., and Tampa, Fla. The combined entity will total 17 full-time positions in Roanoke office. The transaction is scheduled to be effective Sept. 1. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Foot Levelers New Marathon Sponsor

Organizers of the Blue Ridge Marathon have announced that Roanoke-based Foot Levelers has signed on as the new title sponsor for the event. The race, with more elevation change than any other on-road marathon in the United States, will be known as the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon through at least 2015.

“We are looking forward to our new partnership with Foot Levelers,” says marathon chairman Pete Eshelman.  “Foot Levelers already has great connections in the running world by virtue of its products.  We expect to be able to use those connections to take the message of the Roanoke event farther than we have in the past.”

"We are so excited to be the title sponsor of America's Toughest Road Marathon," says Kent Greenawalt, CEO of Foot Levelers.  "Foot Levelers has a lot of activities planned to create awareness about the race nationally and focus on the runners' overall health.  Runners know the importance of taking care of their bodies from the ground up and we plan to motivate and help all participants perform at their maximum ability as they run over the Blue Ridge mountains."