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.