Monday, February 27, 2012

Plans for Full-Time Ice Rink in Roanoke Emerge

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers (right) and the Roanoke Valley Ice Advocates plan to develop a permanent ice rink in the City . Led by the Ice Advocates citizens group, who would raise the money needed to construct a year-round rink as early as fall 2013, this project would be the latest effort to brand Roanoke as a sports and recreational location for economic development.

The proposal comes as demand grows for college and recreational hockey and public skating in the region and discussions continue about bringing minor-league hockey back to Roanoke.

“In addition to being an outstanding recreational facility that further enhances our quality of life and fitness, the rink would attract college and youth hockey games and tournaments – becoming an economic driver that benefits all citizens and businesses,” Bowers says. “It will be another tool for our economic development and sports marketing professionals to use as they encourage folks near and far to come to our community and spend their valuable time and money.”

A rink would be another great partnership with our colleges and universities in the region, says Councilman Sherman Lea. “It reminds me of the void our community saw more than 10 years ago, which brought colleges and universities into Roanoke through a similar partnership at the Higher Education Center. A true partnership opportunity exists again by providing a dedicated sheet of ice to attract these college teams and students to Roanoke.”

“Simply put, the Roanoke Valley needs a permanent ice rink to supplement the Roanoke Civic Center ice,” says Dr. Matt Skelton, co-vice president of Roanoke Valley Ice Advocates. “The Civic Center’s recent successes have included more shows and concerts, and that’s limited ice time. There are more people skating, shooting and scoring than you might think.”

These include:
  • Valley Youth Hockey Association – more than 138 kids participating, including 54 learning to play.
  • Roanoke No Check Hockey League – six teams with a waiting list.
  • Roanoke Valley Adult Hockey Association – eight teams.
  • Rusty Blades – for those 45 and older.
  • Colleges – club hockey teams from Virginia Tech, Radford University, Roanoke College and interest from Washington and Lee.
“While hockey would be the biggest user of the ice, we envision a new rink to serve a broader community, including figure skating, synchronized skating, speed skating and of course recreational skating, where people can have fun and exercise,” Skelton says.

Friday, February 24, 2012

HomeTown Bank Opens Mortgage Office in Roanoke

HomeTown Bank's Susan Still cuts ribbon*

HomeTown Bank of Roanoke today opened a dedicated mortgage office serving the Roanoke and New River Valleys. HomeTown Mortgage coordinates the bank’s existing mortgage services with an experienced team of local lenders offering mortgages, refinancing, home-construction loans, home-equity loans and other services.

The office is at 4227 Colonial Ave., next to an existing HomeTown Bank branch.

“As a bank committed to helping our own community prosper and grow, we’re delighted to serve the needs of the Roanoke and New River valleys with a local office staffed by local lenders who understand our market, understand local real estate and understand the needs and concerns of families and businesses right here at home,” says Susan Still, president and CEO.

“We are pleased to have a team of very experienced mortgage bankers who have the knowledge and personal service to help people realize the current financing opportunities available,” says Melissa Mason, Senior Vice President and Mortgage Manager. “With continued low interest rates and a rebounding housing market, this is a great time for qualified customers to get the loans they need to build a great future.”

(Those in the photo are, from left, Melissa Mason, Joanne Polly, Debbie Carpenter, Susan Still and Christine Sander.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Modea Lays Off Many of Its Workers

Modea, the digital ad company in Blacksburg that has consistently been among the fastest growing companies in the region has laid off 25 of its 79 employees, according to reports. The company lost its lucrative Verizon Wireless account, for which Modea built simulators and emulators.

President David Catalano reports that the company remains healthy, but needs to be smaller. He says the company will continue to pursue its plan to locate at Blacksburg Middle School.

Monday, February 20, 2012

VTK Expands Presidents' Council to Roanoke

VT KnowledgeWorks in Blacksburg has expanded its Presidents’ Councils to Roanoke with the appointment of Ken Ferris as moderator. Presidents’ Councils are private networks of experienced executives working together to increase energy, share insight, reduce risk and improve leadership skills.

Ferris is a serial entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience which has included being on the founding team of three technology start-up companies, each of which was sold to a large, publicly traded company. He is past president and on the board of the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC).

Since 1994 Presidents' Council has provided its members with the time, atmosphere and structure to become more effective leaders. VT KnowledgeWorks is home to two Presidents’ Councils in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friendship's Garden Wins Award

Friendship Retirement Community’s Wandering Garden in Roanoke—a courtyard offering outdoor respite for patients with dementia and related illnesses—has been cited as an example of excellence. The Environments for Aging Showcase selected the Wandering Garden as one of 36 projects around the nation deserving to be included in Long Term Care magazine’s annual April design issue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Roanoke Bond Rating Stable at AA+

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the City of Roanoke's AA+ bond rating with a stable outlook.

According to Fitch's assessment, "Roanoke is a regional economic hub, with a diverse economy that leverages the city's employment sector strengths in health care and transportation. Growing opportunities in biomedical research spearheaded by a joint partnership between Carilion Clinic and [Virginia Tech] lend additional employment and income stability."

The AA+ rating also reflects Roanoke's steady reserve levels, as well as its moderate debt levels and debt service costs. Fitch's assessment additionally recognizes the city's prudent financial
policies, including the practice of adopting a balanced budget excluding the use of one-time measures or existing fund balance.

Bond ratings of all municipalities are periodically reviewed by agencies such as Fitch, and are assessed by considering factors including economy, debt structure, financial condition, demographic factors, and management practices. Standard and Poor's Rating Services also recently assessed the City of Roanoke, and affirmed the city's AA bond rating with a stable outlook.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hotel Roanoke Wins Prestigious Award

R.D. Wright accepts the first place award for the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.

The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, was recently honored with the company’s Best Property Operations - Americas East award at a Hilton Worldwide conference in Dallas.

R.D. Wright, director of property operations at the historic hotel and conference center, earned the prestigious honor after successfully obtaining the highest scores in property operation evaluations for three consecutive years. Only three such awards were given out within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of hotels in the Americas East region – which includes Hilton Worldwide managed properties from North America, Central America and South America.

“We are thrilled to have received this tremendous honor amongst our peers that exemplifies the hard work, dedication and commitment of RD and his team here at the historic hotel and conference center,” said Gary Walton, general manager, The Hotel Roanoke & Conference.

The award is based on the best practices and scores that maximize the condition, life, and value of assets over the long term of the property and assesses the building’s structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and system infrastructure annually. To measure the effectiveness of those practices, performance operation reviews are conducted annually at each property that is managed, leased or joint venture by Hilton Worldwide.

'Work: It's Personal,' Anne Clelland's New Book is Available Now

Valley Business FRONT Workplace Advice columnist Anne Clelland has gathered up a group of her columns and published them as Work: It's Personal and it is available today. Take a look for yourself here.

Anne has gained quite a following because of her straight-forward, take charge attitude, one that puts personal responsibility where it belongs. Anne, who owns the small business Handshake2.0 and understands the problems of the workplace firsthand, has also been a counselor, journalist, coach and teacher. She uses all of that experience in writing her column.

Take a close look at her columns and the book and consider the purchase. Her Kindle version is very inexpensive and the paper copy satisfies the traditionalists at a reasonable price, as well.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ramsey Broadcast at Roanoke County Library

HomeTown Bank is sponsoring a broadcast of nationally syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey and his “Total Money Makeover Live” program to Roanoke. Ramsey will not be in Roanoke, but the show will be broadcast live. “Total Money Makeover” is the largest personal finance event in the country.

The live simulcast will be held from 12:45-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 at Roanoke County Library, 6303 Merriman Road. Tickets are available at the library for $39 and space is limited.

Ramsey is the author of four New York Times best-sellers. "The Dave Ramsey Show" is heard on more than 500 radio stations across the United States, including WFIR in the Roanoke Valley.

APCo Files for New Transmission Lines in NRV

Appalachian Power today filed an application with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) to construct a new $25 million electric transmission line. The company says the line would reinforce the electric grid and prevent potential overload conditions in the Montgomery County, Blacksburg and Christiansburg area that could occur as early as summer 2015.

Following a public comment period and environmental analysis, the company identified what it says is the least-impacting route possible for the 7.5 mile transmission line.

The new facilities, if approved, would be constructed using a combination of single pole structures with an average height of 100 feet in more developed areas and H-frame structures with an average height of 80 feet in more rural areas. Both types of structures will require a 100 foot-wide right of way.

Appalachian Power originally announced the Falling Branch-Merrimac project in 2008. After an initial comment period, the project was postponed. The company reitiated the project in 2011. Appalachian held multiple public workshops and received significant input from local government and property owners throughout the route identification process.

The company’s application identifies a preferred route for the project that minimizes human and environmental impacts. In addition to being the most direct route, the preferred corridor provides an opportunity to relocate approximately .6 mile of 69 kilovolt line in a densely populated area where the right of way has been encroached upon. The company is seeking approval of a 500-foot-wide corridor, within which the line will ultimately be constructed on a 100 foot-wide right of way.

Electric service in the area is primarily supplied by a single 138 kilovolt line and multiple 69 kV lines. Between 2003 and 2010, peak electric demand in the area increased by 34 percent to 278 megawatts and is expected to continue to grow steadily.

The addition of the new power line, which ties together existing electric substations and establishes a looped 138 kV system, will help prevent overloads and reduce the likelihood of interrupting electric service to the region. With a looped system in place, Appalachian can isolate problems when they occur and limit the disturbance they cause to customers, company spokesmen say.


Holnback Retires from Land Trust; David Perry Interim Head

The Western Virginia Land Trust has announced that Executive Director Roger Holnback (above) has resigned after 10 years with the organization. Assistant Director David Perry (left) will become interim director. Perry is a regular contributor to Valley Business FRONT.

Holnback has been with the land trust since 2001. Under his tenure, the land trust achieved several significant goals, including conservation easements on Carvins Cove Natural Reserve and Mill Mountain Park, as well as shepherding the organization to national accreditation with the Land Trust Alliance in 2011.

“I’ve enjoyed a wonderful 10 1/2 years at the land trust, and it’s time to move on,” says Holnback, 57. “There is a lot I want to do in retirement.” That includes building hiking trails with a local volunteer group, golfing, adding a deck onto his home and finishing restoration of a fiberglass boat in his garage.

“We are accepting Roger’s resignation with regret,” says Board of Trustees President Sandy Light. “He truly cares deeply about our mission of conserving our resources for future generations.”

Perry has been with the land trust since 2006. “Roger has been a wonderful mentor and I’ll miss his passion for saving western Virginia’s beautiful places,” he said.

Harrington Named to Lead Spot at VTC

Daniel Harrington (right) has been named senior dean for academic affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Two other faculty members have been appointed to key positions, as well. As assistant dean for clinical sciences for the preclinical years, Dr. Tarin Schmidt-Dalton will lead in the continued development and execution of the clinical sciences and skills portion of the curriculum. As assistant dean for clinical sciences for the clinical years, Dr. Aubrey Knight will coordinate the development and implementation of clerkship rotations through the various medical specialties.

Harrington, who oversaw the design of the third- and fourth-year clinical clerkships as the school’s senior associate dean, will now oversee the entire four-year curriculum. The position not only mirrors his current position as vice president for academic affairs at Carilion Clinic, but it also reflects his early role in shaping the school’s program.

“Dan has been in the trenches as an integral part of the leadership team that built this school from scratch,” said Dr. Cynda Ann Johnson, founding dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, in appointing Harrington. “His expertise in designing and delivering top-rate medical education has been a tremendous asset, even more so now in his new expanded role.”

Harrington served on the school’s original curriculum planning committee. To determine the best learning model, he visited medical schools with a range of successful approaches to education. Based on that research, committee members chose to devise a new, innovative approach: a problem-based, team-based learning model that incorporates a research-project requirement.

“I’m excited to deepen my responsibilities at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine,” said Harrington. “I have a wonderful, hard-working, and growing leadership team to help orchestrate the vision for an innovative medical education curriculum.”

Harrington will continue to serve as vice president for academic affairs at Carilion Clinic, where he oversees graduate medical education programs. He earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from West Virginia University, and he completed a combined internal medicine and psychiatry residency at the University of Virginia.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Donovan Leaving Technology Council Soon

Donovan with his wife, veterinarian Dr. Julie Sanders.

Cory Donovan of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council has announced he is leaving his job because of an opportunity his wife, Dr. Julie Sanders, a Roanoke veterinarian, can’t pass up. Donovan has been with the council a little over four years. He will remain at the helm during the transitions.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Carilion Clinic Adds Helicopter for Rockbridge Co.

Carilion Clinic will add a third helicopter to its fleet of medical aircraft serving southwest and central Virginia and sections of West Virginia and North Carolina. The helicopter, called Carilion Life-Guard 12, will be based in the Rockbridge County area.

Its presence will further extend Carilion’s ability to serve the region, which includes Allegheny County, Bath County, Pocahontas County, Greenbrier County and Lewisburg. Life-Guard 12 will significantly reduce response and transport time, providing fast, efficient critical care air services to those in need.

Life-Guard 12 will join Life-Guard 10 which covers the Roanoke Valley region, and Life-Guard 11, which responds in the New River Valley region from its base at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.

While planning for the expansion, Carilion sought a partner who was best aligned with the organization’s needs and mission and selected Med-Trans Corp. based out of Dallas, Texas.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Carilion Clinic and able to contribute to their team’s continued commitment of caring for critical patients in need of air medical transport. Carilion’s air medical bases will continue to be a regional asset and industry leader providing an invaluable service,” stated Fred Buttrell, President/CEO of Med-Trans Corp.

Advance To Invest $8 Million and Create 75 Jobs

Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts, an automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, batteries, accessories, and maintenance items, will add a Financial Services Commercial Customer Care Center to its Roanoke corporate headquarters operation.

Advance will invest $8 million to support this expansion, as well as other growth. Financial Services will manage the entire commercial customer credit experience including commercial customer master data setup, billing, accounts receivable and collections.

The project will create 75 new jobs over the next three years.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor Bob McDonnell said, “An investment of $8 million and 75 new jobs for the City of Roanoke is tremendous for the Company and the region. Advance Auto Parts operates more than 3,600 stores across the United States, and we are proud to be the home of this Fortune 500 company’s corporate headquarters and now growing financial services operations, for the 80th year. I am confident that the partnership between the Commonwealth and the Company will remain strong and continue to grow.”

“Advance Auto Parts is a leading Virginia-grown company that has thrived in Roanoke since 1932,” said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “The new Financial Services Commercial Customer Care Center will add to the company’s impressive and growing operation, and I am thrilled that Advance chose Virginia for this significant expansion project

The company is eligible to receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities.

Consumer Reports CEO To Speak at Tech

Jim Guest, president and chief executive officer of the internationally renowned Consumer Reports, will be the inaugural speaker for the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Lecture in Consumer Affairs.

Guest’s talk is entitled “How to be a Smart Consumer and Engaged Activist in the 21st Century,” and will be held on Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Graduate Life Center auditorium at Virginia Tech. This event is free and open to the public.

Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports is the world's premier consumer testing, research, publishing, and advocacy organization with more than eight million subscribers to its products and services. is the largest subscription-based publication website, Consumer Reports is one of the top-10-circulation magazines in the U.S., and the organization's advocacy arm, Consumers Union, has close to 1 million online activists who advance its role as a national powerhouse in promoting pro-consumer policies and market reform at both the federal and the state levels.

Guest’s lecture will cover some of the 76-year history of the non-profit organization as well as what it takes to be savvy in today’s world. There will be ample time for questions.