Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Virginia Tech Research Spending Continues to Rise

Tech professor, student work at Center for Advanced Engineering and Research in Lynchburg
Virginia Tech research expenditures for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, rose to $450 million, a 13.03 percent increase from the $398 million reported in fiscal year 2010.

The increase represents the largest dollar growth and the second-largest percentage rise during the past nine years, according to Ken Miller, university controller.

“The increase in research funding that’s so vital to Virginia Tech’s efforts to improve the lives of people around the world is a testament to the dedication of the entire university community,” said Robert Walters, vice president of research. “It was an excellent year in expenditure growth.”

In addition, the Research Division reported that Virginia Tech’s research expenditure ranking for 2010 fell from 44th in 2009 to 47th. Rankings for expenditures typically lag a year behind reporting of the expenditures, so the ranking for 2011 is not yet known.

“The positive news is that Virginia Tech remained in the top 50 of national research universities despite only a small increase [about $2 million] in revenue from 2009 to 2010,” Walters said.

The largest growth in the 2011 figures – $26.6 million – came from federal sources, which was partly due to temporary federal stimulus funding that will be fully expended by the end of 2013. University support rose 16 percent while other commonwealth funding dropped dramatically. Industry and business support rose 7.1 percent to almost $22.8 million.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MedExpress, LewisGale Sign Agreement

LewisGale Regional Health System and MedExpress Urgent Care, a healthcare provider that recently opened a full-service, walk-in urgent care center in Southwest Virginia with plans to open several more, have signed a collaborative care agreement.  This agreement will ultimately provide better access to quality care for patients seeking the services of either healthcare organization.

“Patients who visit urgent care centers often need more advanced care such as referrals to specialty physicians, lab or radiology services, or even a hospital emergency room,” says Victor Giovanetti, president, LewisGale Regional Health System.  “Our agreement with MedExpress will help patients receive this kind of care from our health system in an expedited manner.”

“MedExpress’ vision of providing great care and exceeding patient expectations aligns with LewisGale Regional Health System, where the patient is at the center of all decisions and relationships,” says MedExpress CEO Frank Alderman.  “This agreement was developed to help patients navigate the complexities of the health care system in the most convenient, seamless way possible.”  

As part of this relationship, LewisGale will provide a one-call system for MedExpress patients who require a follow-up visit with their regular physician or need to be seen by a LewisGale-affiliated specialist. MedExpress values and respects each patient’s choice to health care and physician selection. Working collaboratively with LewisGale, however, allows MedExpress to efficiently facilitate additional care.  For continuity of care, MedExpress will also be able to electronically transfer patient records to a LewisGale facility or a physician office. 

Patients who normally see a LewisGale-affiliated physician will be encouraged to use MedExpress for their urgent care needs during evenings and weekends when their physician’s office is closed. “We are very pleased to form this partnership with MedExpress,” says Giovanetti.  “It’s a win-win for our patients who, through MedExpress, will now have access to several convenient locations and extended evening and weekend hours. With both of our organizations being committed to high-quality, compassionate care, our community will benefit significantly from this new partnership.”

MedExpress’ center in Salem is at 1336 W. Main Street. A second center will open soon at 4902 Electric Road. MedExpress centers are open 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Economic Developers Meet at Virginia Tech

From left: John White of of Pulaski, Aric Bopp of NRV Development Alliance, and Shawn Utt of Pulaski County.

A group of economic developers from around the New River Valley visited Virginia Tech May 24 to learn about the types of research that might appeal to companies considering moving to the region. The group visited the Kroehling Advanced Materials Foundry, a metal casting facility just off campus on Plantation Road in Blacksburg, and also heard from researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Survival Kit from Mountain Shepherd School

Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba has announced the debut of the Mountain Shepherd Survival Kit, an all-in-one emergency supply solution.

The kit, which includes everything you need to prevail in a survival situation, covers the school's seven priorities of survival: maintaining a positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter craft, fire craft, signaling, water and food. The kit is in a waterproof expandable bag to carry extra items like a knife, extra clothing, cell phone and other items appropriate for your outdoor adventure.

The bag also can carry up to eight liters of water. The supplies include a fire starter, medicine and other essential medical equipment, water purification tablets, an identification card, materials for signaling for help and more. The entire kit weighs 15 ounces and can be packed with the rest of your travel supplies. The Mountain Shepherd Survival Kit costs $69 and can be purchased at the school's website here.

Mountain Shepherd has extensive experience training a variety of military, corporate and personal clients. Our instructors have real-world Air Force survival experience and can tailor their instruction meet the needs of individuals, government agencies and corporate executives.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First MEDCottage Sale Completed

N2Care today announced the first placement of the MEDCottage, a portable, modular medical home that enables families to take care of loved ones on their property as an alternative to long-term care facilities.
A family in Fairfax has purchased the 300-square-foot MEDCottage (, loaded with technology and amenities for the health, wellness, safety, security and comfort of the elderly or those recovering from illness or injury.

Monday, May 21, 2012

NRV on Forbes Metro List for Jobs

The Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg.
The New River Valley has been named to Forbes' list of the ten "Best Small Cities for Jobs."  The Blacksburg-Christiansburg metro ranked 5th nationally against 242 MSAs with less than 150,000 jobs. 

According to, rankings were based on recent growth trends, mid-term growth, long-term growth and regional momentum. These indicators were assessed using employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from November 2000 through January 2012.  

You can view the ranking here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

JJ Ramberg To Appear at Regional Forum Event

JJ Ramberg
The Roanoke Regional Forum will present An Evening with JJ Ramberg: Behind the Scenes of America’s Small Businesses May 14 at 5:30 at the Jefferson Center.  

Ramberg is the host of MSNBC’s Your Business, a TV show dedicated to issues affecting small business owners. The program has profiled thousands of small business owners and offered advice from countless small business experts and investors. Your Business guests have included Senate and House Small Business Committee members, the head of the Small Business Administration, and members of the Cabinet. She has received several awards including Self Magazine’s “Women Doing Good” and Jewish Women International’s “Women to Watch.”

Ramberg is a contributor to The Today Show on small business and financial issues. She is also MSNBC’s small business expert and occasional on-air news anchor. She was a financial columnist for Cookie Magazine, Conde Nast’s parenting magazine, and a contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine where she focuses on social entrepreneurship.

For ticket information, contact Judy Chambliss at 540-983-0700 x221 or or register online at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ridenhour Wins Top Tech Council Award

A record crowd of 460 people in the technology sector showed up for Technite.
New Director Derrick Maggard with Lisa Soltis of Roanoke City.
Consultant Melinda Cohan (left) Banker Gretchen Weinnig.
Lawyers David Cohan (left) Keith Finch talk ... law.
Mary Jane and Ray Pethtel (left) with Stuart Mease, both of Virginia Tech.
Ed and Katherine Walker accept Ruby Award.
Sen. Mark Warner talks about a dysfunctional Washington.
A record crowd of more than 460 people showed up tonight at the Technite Awards, sponsored by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council where they saw Minnis Ridenhour of Virginia Tech walk off with the Regional Leadership Award  and ADMMicro, PowerHub Systems and Lujure capture tech awards.

Ridenhour's award was especially significant given the strength of a field that included such luminaries as Ed and Katherine Walker (CityWorks Xpo), Ken Ferris (Brookewood Management Advisors), Sam English (Science Museum of Western Virginia), Bob Summers (TechPad), Richard Hammer (Interactive Achievement) and Jim Flowers (VTKnowledgworks), any one of which could have won.

The other winners included ADMMicro for Entrepreueur; PowerHub Systems, Innovation; and Lujure, Rising Star. MoGo Mobile won the People's Choice Award and the education awards went to Stephanie Crawford of Montgomery County and Linda Gooding of Roanoke Valley Governor's School.

--Dan Smith, story and photos

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

McAirlaid's Expands Franklin County Plant; Adds 40

McAirlaid's officials cut the ribbon on the plant expansion.

 Franklin County will get 40 new jobs with the expansion of a McAirlaid’s to 160 employees. The company will add 75,000 square feet at the plant where it makes absorbent materials used to package meat and other products.

Sam Lionberger Jr. in Wins Tech's Highest Honor

Sam Lionberger
Alumnus Samuel L. Lionberger Jr., of Roanoke, is the 2012 recipient of Virginia Tech’s William H. Ruffner Medal, the university’s highest honor. The medal is awarded at commencement each year to recognize an individual whose service to the university has been notable and distinguished.

Lionberger’s long record of service to Virginia Tech and his community began while he was still enrolled. He was president of the Class of 1962 and was a member of various campus military organizations, as well as the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership fraternity.

After earning his bachelor’s of building construction in 1962, Lionberger served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, where he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal in 1964 for construction management work on the largest Corps of Engineers project in the world.

Later that year, he returned to Roanoke and joined his family’s commercial construction business, Lionberger Construction, as an estimator and project manager. He later became president of the company, and held the title of chief executive officer from 1975 until his retirement in 2010.

Lionberger’s many years of active participation in the university community includes serving on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the National Campaign Steering Committee of The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, the W. E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake, Board of Trustees, the Virginia Tech Alumni Board, and the advisory boards of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the School of Building Construction. Along with his wife, Lorinda, Lionberger is a member of the President’s Circle within the Prosim Society, a select group of Virginia Tech’s most generous supporters.

He also has been active in his community, with service to the Roanoke Corps of the Salvation Army, the Military Family Support Center, and numerous other college and business boards. Lionberger has received numerous honors throughout his career and was inducted in 2008, along with his wife, into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Roanoke-Based Shenandoah Life Exits Receivership

Shenandoah Life Insurance Company in Roanoke (Dan Smith photo)
Shenandoah Life Insurance Company, following a $60 million capital infusion, has successfully exited receivership--a rare occurrence in the industry.

Hans Carstensen
Shenandoah Life, which has been serving policyholders since its founding in 1914, will continue to be based in Roanoke as a subsidiary f its new owner, privately held Prosperity Life Insurance Group LLC. Prosperity Life is led by an experienced group of insurance and investment professionals, including Jose Montemayor, the former three-term Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance, who will join Shenandoah’s newly appointed Board of Directors.

The transaction, finalized today by order of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, means the company will resume normal operations, including continuing to fulfill all of its commitments to policyholders. “Very few insurance companies have emerged from receivership to resume business. Shenandoah’s ability to do so is a tribute to the company’s solid operations and talented employees,” says Montemayor, president of Prosperity Life.

“We sincerely appreciate the patience and loyalty of our policyholders and agents throughout the nation as we worked through the legal and regulatory process. With the receivership behind us, we look forward to continuing a proud heritage of outstanding service.”

The company introduced industry veteran Hans Carstensen, former president and CEO of Aviva Life Insurance Co., as Shenandoah Life’s new Roanoke-based President and Chief Executive Officer. “Policyholders can be assured that Shenandoah Life policies remain secure and that we will continue to provide the high-quality customer service they expect,” Carstensen says.

“We are working diligently to honor the needs of our customers and agents as we re-invent our company. “We would not be here if it weren’t for the dedication, loyalty and commitment of our employees, which was certainly a factor in Prosperity Life’s decision to invest in Shenandoah Life,” Carstensen says.

He says Shenandoah Life is committed to the Roanoke Valley community. “This important step out of receivership gives us a chance to once again be fully involved and engaged in the community,” Carstensen says. “We intend to support the Roanoke Valley’s deep tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, and we look forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary in Roanoke in 2014.”

Business Grads at Tech See 'Bright' Outlook

Stuart Mease
The Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech has pronounced the job outlook for business graduates this yearto be "bright." Stuart Mease, Pamplin's undergraduate career services director, says  that the employment and continuing education rate (employment accounts for most of this rate) for business majors ranged from about 75 percent for the marketing and finance majors to about 90 percent for the business information technology and accounting and information systems majors.

“The college has the best placement record on campus, with six of its majors among the top 10 majors interviewed by employers recruiting on campus through the university’s career services office this academic year,” Mease sqays. As a group, business was the major most in demand by campus recruiters, with about 3,400 job interviews given to about 1,000 students. Pamplin students also accounted for nearly half of all the interviews conducted in the 2011-12 year through the university’s career services office.

The university does not yet have salary and placement data for this year, Mease said, but the average starting salary for Pamplin graduates in 2011 was $49,000, up about 10 percent from the previous year. MBA students are also experiencing strong recruiter interest and placement success, says MBA assistant director Gina French.“As of April 26, 54 percent of our graduating MBAs seeking jobs have accepted offers, 9 percent up over last year,” French says. She says she expects the number to rise over the next few weeks as additional students report in.

Though salaries vary according to experience and other credentials, “one MBA accepted an offer of $125,000 — the highest in the class — plus a significant signing bonus,” French added. “It’s indicative of what’s possible with a Virginia Tech MBA.”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Commentary: Roanoke Chamber Subverts 'Buy Local' with Magazine Deal

Editor Dan Smith (left), Publisher Tom Field at the printer.
In yet another startling example of local institutions failing to support local businesses, the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce has entered into a contract with Hampton/Richmond-based Virginia Business magazine to produce a business publication in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.

 In a press release, Chamber President Joyce Waugh is quoted as saying, “Roanoke Business [magazine] is a welcome addition to the region. It will provide additional insights and an in-depth look at the large, medium and small enterprises that form the base of our economy. Building on the strength and reputation of Virginia Business, Roanoke Business will highlight exciting developments in our area and bring a new, expanded level of coverage in regional business, financial and economic news.”

The new publication will have its offices inside the chamber facility.

Chamber President Joyce Waugh
The release goes on to say that the new magazine “will provide a definitive look at business news in its coverage area.” The strong suggestion here is that this region has no business publication. Nothing could be further from the truth. Valley Business FRONT, a chamber member since its inception, is four years old and was preceded by the Blue Ridge Business Journal, which had a run of more than 20 years before FRONT began.

The Journal, which was owned by a local daily newspaper, was closed two years after the FRONT’s owners left to start FRONT. The FRONT has (and the Journal had) loyal followings, has won numerous awards—many of them for community service—and neither publication was ever sponsored by a chamber of commerce.

“We have been a leading advocate of buying local for our entire history,” says FRONT Publisher Tom Field. “We don’t just advocate it, either; we do it. One of our most significant expenses is printing, a cost that could be reduced by quite a bit if we shopped out of town. But we won’t do that because we believe in local businesses.”

Virginia Business, whose primary coverage areas are Virginia's large population centers in the center, east and north, is a magazine known in large part for its advertising-driven list of “best” lawyers in the state and its close ties with chambers of commerce.

Smith says, “We have always been known for our journalistic independence and at a time when publications are under economic stress to compromise that business model, it is especially important to maintain that."

Waugh explains that the chamber was having difficulty selling its own magazine and was looking for a distribution partner. She says she contacted the owners of Virginia Business about a possible partnership and that they were open to the deal. She did not contact publishers in this region, she says.

The new magazine will piggyback on Virginia Business’s circulation in the region, coming wrapped with the magazine monthly. She says that she does not view Virginia Business as a competitor for Valley Business FRONT because “the magazines are so different.”

Field and co-owner Smith expressed “surprise and disappointment” that the chamber would enter “a business deal with a business based in Richmond and Norfolk that is a direct competitor of a respected local company.”

Field says, “This is especially important coming as it does during the most challenging economy of our lifetime. That we weren’t even contacted about the chamber’s need is certainly surprising. I applaud competition and free enterprise more than anyone, but I also consider it the chamber's duty—and privilege—to support the very businesses it is supposed to serve. From catering an event, to leasing vehicles, to building a facility, any responsible business advocate would look to the local suppliers first, much less passing over one of its own members and stalwart champions."

The chamber’s decision to go outside the region to find a publishing partner continues a string of decisions to go far and wide to find working partners, ignoring talented and experienced local companies. The City of Roanoke, and several other institutions, have been severely criticized for giving plum contracts to firms outside the region.

Says FRONT’s Smith, “This simply tells us that these organizations do not believe our businesses are good enough, and that is maddening. Our people and our businesses are among the country's best in any discipline or endeavor you can imagine, but as long as our own institutions beat the drum to lure outsiders, stripping jobs and local investment, we have a steeper hill to climb. It’s a damn shame.”

(See Dan Smith's personal commentary on his blog, here.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

City Market Vendors 'Expanding' Up the Street

Downtown Roanoke Inc. Director Sean Luther makes announcement.
Roanoke City Market is expanding its offerings and was so efficient in announcing the changes today that it had three announcements in one press conference.

Here's what's happening in a nutshell:

The market is partnering with Kirk Family YMCA at the outer, western edge of downtown to expand the Market outward. Thursday evenings in June, the Market will move up the street to the outside of the Y, near the corner of 5th Street and Luck Ave. The regular Market vendors will be there.

Because of a $5,000 grant from the Foundation for Roanoke Valley and the Carilion Clinic Foundation, EBT/SNAP customers (low income, subsidized) will receive a $1 match for each $1 purchased up to $50.

The Market is launching a new campaign, Friends of the Farmers Market, which will allow supporters of the Market to sponsor at different levels and receive small items. The effort will sustain the Market and provide signs and a beautification program.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alleghany Lands Balchem Corp. 55 Jobs

A publicly traded company that manufactures ingredients used in food, pharmaceuticals and animal nutrition announced plans today to establish an operation in Alleghany County, investing approximately $10 million and creating 55 new jobs within two to three years.

Balchem Corporation, which is based in New Hampton, N.Y., will manufacture encapsulated ingredients for global applications used in animal nutrition and health products. The company plans to acquire a vacant, 68,000-square-foot building currently owned by the county, located in the Alleghany Regional Commerce Center.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said, “Alleghany County is the ideal location for Balchem Corporation’s first Virginia operation. The strategic location with direct access to Interstates 64 and 81 allows the company to easily serve its customer base in the Northeast and Midwest. In addition, the region offers a business-friendly and available labor force. Balchem will provide 55 new jobs over the next two to three years and help contribute to the diversification of Alleghany's manufacturing sector, and we thank the company for this significant investment in the Commonwealth.”

Balchem has three business segments: ARC Specialty Products; food, pharmaceutical and nutrition; and animal nutrition and health. Through ARC Specialty Products, Balchem provides specialty-packaged chemicals for use in healthcare and other industries. The food, pharma and nutrition segment provides proprietary microencapsulation, granulation and agglomeration solutions to a variety of applications in the human food, pharmaceutical and nutrition marketplaces.

The animal nutrition and health segment manufactures and supplies products to numerous animal health markets and certain derivative products into industrial applications. Balchem is on the Forbes list of the 100 best small companies in America.