Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interactive Achievement Gets Cash Infusion

Interactive Achievement in downtown Roanoke.
Interactive Achievement, creator of standards-based instructional improvement software, today announced a $3.5 million growth equity investment for a minority stake in the company. The infusion of cash will help Interactive Achievement continue to meet the growing needs of its clients and to expand its product offerings. 

“This investment will allow us to continue to help educators make a difference in the lives of children all over the country,” said Jonathan Hagmaier, founder and CEO.  “It reinforces to me that we are on the right path as a company; we have a bright future ahead of us.”

To assist in its mission of creating leading education products to better personalize a student’s education through the  use of data, Interactive Achievement will add offerings related to technology enhanced assessment items, curriculum and instruction management, resource management, and data analysis to its award-winning software platform.

Founded in 2006, Interactive Achievement currently employs 45 staff, mostly in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  The company is a leader in personalized education and its software products assist educators with making data-driven decisions to support student achievement in all academic areas. 

The new funds will be used to expand the company’s business in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana where its current clients are located and to extend its reach nationally.  With this investment will come a significant increase in new jobs within the next 18 months.  Most positions will be based in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  Interactive Achievement will be hiring for the following positions: software developers, sales associates, project managers, customer support personnel, content specialists, and managers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ground Broken for West End Center Project

Freedom First Credit Union (FFCU), along with the City of Roanoke and the West End Center for Youth, held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the beginning of construction for the West End revitalization project. Plans for the site include an urban mix of commercial and meeting space, a community pavilion with a full-service production kitchen, and gardens to encourage and promote healthy financial and physical lifestyles.

The project will be anchored by a full-service Freedom First branch scheduled to open in early 2014, which will serve the West End, Hurt Park, and Mountain View neighborhoods, as well as commuters to downtown Roanoke.

“This important project will enable Freedom First to reach into the community with the financial education and specialized products we’ve developed to serve people of modest means,” says Credit Union President/CEO Paul Phillips. “Establishing a Community Development Financial Institution in the West End area of Roanoke gives people who are currently unbanked and under-banked a real opportunity to move toward long-term financial self-sufficiency.”

The West End project aligns with Freedom First’s unique mission and structure, which focuses on affordable housing, transportation, and financial education in addition to a broad range of traditional financial services. The credit union is working closely with nonprofit agencies, local government, and other businesses on this and other projects that serve community and economic development goals.

“We are excited to partner with Freedom First in this venture that will greatly expand the opportunities available to the families we serve,” says Joy Parrish, Executive Director of the West End Center, which owns the property and will oversee its community activities.

The planned production kitchen and gardens will enable the West End Center to bring fresh food and nutrition education to the neighborhood, and the community meeting space will accommodate educational initiatives. "The West End is a neighborhood that is on the rise,” says Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “With existing assets like the West End Center, interesting housing stock, and proximity to downtown, the West End is poised to be an even better place to live and work. It is our hope that Freedom First's investment in the neighborhood, and services that will be offered to residents and businesses, will be a catalyst to more rapid improvements."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Startup Business Workshop in Roanoke March 29

The Business Lounge in downtown Roanoke, in conjunction with VT KnowledgeWorks of Blacksburg, is sponsoring a Startup Readiness Workshop on Friday, March 29, 2013 at the Lounge. The full-day workshop helps prospective entrepreneurs test the strategic essence of their business concept, tighten up on managerial focus, and review the overall business start-up process.

The price is $49 for one person, $89 for two from the same company. Register online at www.vtknowledgeworks.com

What you’ll learn…
The Four Fundamental Factors that govern startup success
The Strategic Essence of every successful business
Five Powerful Habits used by good managers
The power of full Commitment
 How the Money really moves around
Accounting…  De-Mystified

Friday, March 15, 2013

Red Sun Farms Bringing Jobs to Pulaski

The subsidiary of a Mexican agricultural leader will create 205 new jobs and invest a total of $30 million to establish its first U.S. high-technology greenhouse production operation in Pulaski County, the first tenant of the New River Valley Commerce Park.

Red Sun Farms, a producer of high-quality hydroponic, organic vegetables, will erect climate-controlled greenhouses on 45 acres of land to grow greenhouse-grown vegetables, creating the new jobs within five years, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced at a news conference at New River Community College.

“This game-changing project has been in the works for a long time, and it is gratifying to see it come to fruition today. Red Sun Farms uses extremely high-tech equipment to provide a continuous supply of the best organic greenhouse-produced vegetables, and after much research determined that Pulaski County is the ideal spot for its first U.S. production center,” the governor said. “Virginia offers optimal climatic conditions for greenhouse operations, a central location providing convenient access to East Coast markets, and a top-notch workforce ready for this new opportunity. As the first tenant of the New River Valley Commerce Park, Red Sun Farms’ significant investment and creation of new jobs is a tremendous win for the Commonwealth and Pulaski County, and represents strategic growth for the New River Valley region.”

Virginia successfully competed against Tennessee for the project.

“We welcome Red Sun Farms’ first U.S. greenhouse tomato production operation to Pulaski County and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “The company will not only provide new jobs to the community, it will help diversify the local economy and add value to Virginia-grown products. I am confident Red Sun Farms will find success in the Commonwealth and continue as a leader in the greenhouse vegetable industry of North America.”

Headquartered in Michoacán, Mexico, Red Sun Farms was founded in 2001 as part of a family owned agro-industrial group, AgrĂ­cola El Rosal S.A. de C.V., a company dedicated to production of vegetables under greenhouse hydroponic systems using high technology. Red Sun Farms is a key component of the agriculture division, and is an integral part of the group’s business growth and development throughout North America.

The Red Sun brand is owned and marketed by JemD Farms, the only Mexican- and Canadian-owned greenhouse company in North America. Its sister brand, Golden Sun, produces tomatoes in Canada. Currently, JemD Farms owns and operates 150 acres of high-tech greenhouses in Canada and 250 acres in Mexico, making this expansion a true North American operation.
Among its high-tech features: computer-monitored humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide monitors. 

“We are excited to soon begin construction on our new greenhouse facility in Dublin,” said Carlos Visconti, chief operating officer of JemD Farms. “Being able to provide quality, safe and now locally grown greenhouse produce to our retail partners and consumers is a great accomplishment for our team.  We would especially like to thank Governor McDonnell and his agencies and departments, Pulaski County, the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance and many others who worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.” 

“This announcement establishes a unique, high-tech industry in Pulaski County that supplements our existing agricultural businesses,” said Joe Sheffey, chairman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. “Furthermore, it is the first in what we plan to be several other industries to locate in our regional Commerce Park. We see Red Sun Farms as yet another step in our efforts to diversify our local economy.”

The New River Valley Commerce Park is a 1,000-acre, publicly owned industrial site located next to New River Valley Airport and Foreign Trade Zone #238, just 3 miles from Interstate 81.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Locking Down the Cell in Roanoke

Roanoke company, ORIGO, has introduced a technology that can end hand-held cell phone use while driving, addressing a leading national public safety problem. ORIGOSafe is a new ignition interlock system that requires drivers to secure their phone in a docking station before their vehicle can start. This prevents motorists from holding their phones to talk or text while behind the wheel.

Says Clay Skelton, ORIGO’s founder, “By taking the phone out of the driver’s hands – but not preventing making and receiving calls – ORIGO can reduce accidents, increase safety and improve the performance of drivers, particularly young drivers. It takes away the temptation to reach for the phone while driving.”
The statistics tell of a tragic problem:

 Teen driving deaths are up 19 percent in the first half of 2012; texting while driving causes 11 teen deaths every day;   16 percent of all drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving; motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States’ 97 percent of teens in a survey say texting while driving is highly dangerous, yet 75 percent of them say it’s common among their peers; more than 25 percent of teens say they read or send at least one text every time they drive.

And it’s not just a young driver problem. Many adults are involved, as well.

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that “Talking or listening on a cell phone … did not statistically increase crash risk.  Dialing, reaching, and other intensive visual-manual cell phone sub-tasks did.” That’s why ORIGO allows drivers to stay connected hands-free through Bluetooth and other technologies, yet takes the phone completely out of the driver’s hands.

ORIGOSafe is easily installed in any type of vehicle, and is a fully integrated device that supports the top-selling smart phone models. There’s no software to buy or maintain, and no need to wonder if it’s working.  

ORIGO also comes in a version to improve safety among commercial drivers. The ORIGOSafe Commercial has a module called ORIGOCommand, an iPad-based fleet management package with a central database for administrators to manage multiple fleets at multiple locations and restrict truck usage to an easily manageable list of authorized drivers.

Virginia Tech Climbing the Rankings Ladder

Virginia Tech ranks in the top 20 colleges and universities being talked about most frequently in print, broadcast, and Internet media, and in blogs and tweets, according to the latest ranking by an Austin, Texas-based company that specializes in media analytics.

Global Language Monitor said that its “brand equity measurements” of 2012 mentions ranked Virginia Tech No. 17. Last year, the Blacksburg, Va., university was rated 19th. This year’s measurement puts it higher on the list than Johns Hopkins, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke. The University of Virginia fell from number 25 to 32 on the Buzz list.

The company rated MIT as the number one school followed by Harvard. The University of California at Berkeley was the top public university in the 10 highest ranked schools. The University of Minnesota jumped 15 spots into the top 20 while the University of Michigan dropped 12 places from 13 to 25. Public universities held 13 of the top 25 rankings.

“Virginia Tech has long been in the forefront of new technology applications, and we suspect that this latest ranking reflects the technical expertise of many young people wanting to become Hokies,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president of University Relations. “It also might reflect [Virginia] Tech’s highly respected reputation. Either way, it’s nice to be noticed.”

For 2012, Virginia Tech’s homepage had 16.7 million page views and 11.4 million unique views. In addition, there were 3.3 unique visitors, while the university’s Facebook page grew from 93,571 likes in January 2012 to 118,063 likes in December 2012.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Life-Guard 12 To Get New Home in Lexington

Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington is to begin construction on a helicopter hangar, crew quarters and offices mid-March. The new facility, located on .411 acres behind CSJH, will be the permanent location for Carilion Clinic’s Life-Guard 12 helicopter.

The new hangar will allow the EC135 aircraft to be hangared during inclement weather and extreme temperatures. Additionally, the hangar space will permit routine maintenance to be performed on-site, decreasing the need to relocate the helicopter to Roanoke and remain in its primary service area.

“Crew quarters and offices will adjoin the hangar. Having crew quarters at the same location as the helipad optimizes response times from the time of the request to the time they are airborne,” explained Susan Smith, director at Carilion Clinic Patient Transportation. “We are also excited to have Carilion’s Lexington ground division co-located in this new facility.”

Furthermore, the site will include an above ground Jet-A fuel tank. This tank will help to maximize operations by allowing Life-Guard 12 better access to fuel for long distance flights.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alleghany Gets 55 New Manufacturing Jobs

Balchem Corporation, which specializes in choline chloride and precision release nutrient technologies for animal nutrition and health, today celebrated the opening of its newest manufacturing facility to meet growing demand. The company is investing approximately $10 million and creating 55 new jobs within two to three years in a 68,000-square-foot building at Alleghany Regional Commerce Center.

The facility will more than double the company’s output capacity for the animal nutrition and health sector with its new encapsulation technology. “This world-class manufacturing facility gives us the ability to better meet our customers’ needs for our products and technology,” Balchem president and CEO Dino Rossi said at a ribbon-cutting event with area business leaders, customers and elected officials.

“By greatly increasing capacity for the animal nutrition and health sector, we’re also advancing solutions that aid in gains in animal productivity and health and reducing the environmental impact of contemporary feeding programs.”

Balchem, based in New Hampton, N.Y., supplies encapsulated nutrients and manufactures more than 140 different products across human, animal and industrial applications. Balchem has worked to refine and improve encapsulation technology and processes for more than 40 years, with keen focus in the animal nutrition and health industry for the last 10 years.

The Covington plant will produce Balchem’s growing portfolio of encapsulated nutrients: AminoShure-L Precision Release Lysine, AminoShure-M Precision Release Methionine, NitroShure Precision Release Nitrogen and NiaShure Precision Release Niacin.

Richfield Cuts a Ribbon on Rehab Center

Representatives from Richfield and the community cut ribbon on new Rehab Center at Richfield on March 5 in Roanoke.  From left to right: Pete Larkin from the office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Roanoke County Supervisor Joe ‘Butch’ Church, Richfield Retirement Community CEO Ray Fisher, Richfield Chairman of the Board Stewart Bruce, Roanoke County Vice Chairman Charlotte Moore, Angie Hall from the office of Congressman Morgan Griffith, and Salem Mayor Randy Foley.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Roanoke's Luna Sells Secure Computing Group

Luna Innovations in Roanoke, which develops and manufactures new-generation products for the healthcare, telecommunications, energy and defense markets, today announced the sale of its Secure Computing and Communications (SCC) group to MacAulay-Brown, Inc. (MacB).
The sale of SCC will enable Luna to more narrowly focus on the company’s key strategic initiatives that relate to its core strength in fiber optic sensing while reducing the company’s exposure to reductions in government spending. 

“We are very proud of the unique expertise we developed in secure computing technology.  The sale of SCC allows us to increase liquidity and focus on the growth potential of our core fiber-optic technology,” said My Chung, Luna’s CEO. “MacB has a strategic focus in areas where our SCC technology is already being applied as well as the infrastructure to advance this technology for military and intelligence customers.  This is truly an ideal home for this unique technology and the talented people of SCC.

“This sale accelerates the monetization of our secure computing technology while mitigating exposure to reductions in government spending,” Chung added. “We look forward to working with MacB and SCC’s customers on a smooth transition.”

Since 2003, SCC has conducted research and development of innovative electronic components and methods, and has provided technical services with a focus on critical U.S. military and National Security applications. In addition, SCC is a leader in the development of methods and technologies to build trust into integrated circuits and energy management systems. 

“We are delighted to welcome SCC to our growing portfolio,” said Sid Fuchs, President and CEO of MacB. “This advanced technology is a good strategic fit that builds on the role we play in our nation’s defense. In working with SCC to verify the capability and usability of its products, we recognized the benefits of this growing technology for our existing customers and our ability to bring this technology to market.”