LOCAL ROOTS: I am from
Kansas and have worked
in many institutions
across the country.
Prior to Roanoke, I was
most recently at East
Carolina University. I was
recruited to be founding
dean of the Virginia Tech
Carilion School of Medicine and made Roanoke
FAVORITE LOCAL EATS:
Formosa Lounge has the
best fried rice on
it is Taiwanese. The sushi
volcano is also a fun dish
to order. Metro! is a top
pick for me because of its
eclectic fusion food and
MUST-SEE: I always
take visitors to see the
Roanoke Star on Mill
Mountain. Center in
the Square is also a
must-see, both to walk
through and explore the
museums and displays,
but also to go to the
rooftop and take in the
of Virginia Tech
THE NEW RIVER VALLEY:
ACCESS TO TOP-NOTCH TALENT IN VIRGINIA
The New River Valley sits 2,700 miles from Silicon
and exactly how the technology community here
It offers something different, says Rick Sullivan, a Hewlett
Packard Enterprise vice president, about the
comprises Montgomery, Pulaski, Floyd and Giles counties, as
well as the cities of Radford, Christiansburg and Blacksburg.
This area is growing just as fast as Roanoke, due largely to
the presence of Virginia Tech and related businesses, but it
also retains a small-town charm.
a smaller region made up of a number of smaller
towns, but we have a sophistication that comes with two
state universities located says Charlie Jewell, executive
director of the New River Valley Economic Development
company opened a small office in Virginia
backyard because it saw an opportunity to partner on
research while also getting to top graduates.
be bottled up or restricted
to one locality. So growing, thriving in other
Sullivan says. bullish on
Jewell claims access to graduates is one of his top selling
points. He says an average New River Valley software developer earns around $74,000 per less than
what a developer costs in nearby Washington, D.C.
The area has an unusually high talent density, courtesy of
the universities, but is small enough to offer that elusive livability factor. According to Jewell, a big reason the NRV
has been able to lure tech
major industry hubs.
commute gets cut in half; they have more time to
spend with their Jewell says. still working on really cool and innovative
But around here, it was just the latest sign that
Southwest Virginia has claimed its place in the
like a petri dish or a Doughty says. incumbent on us to provide the
services and programs and resources that will
help those innovation engines spin off.
how you grow an innovation
DAV I AT
miles from Radford 9,400-student
campus. That juxtaposition creates a technology
talent pool unusually deep for a community of its size, according to Charlie Jewell,
executive director of the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance. That talent has
att racted industry heavy hitters such as Rackspace, a Texas-based cloud computing giant,
which maintains a roughly 100-person outpost
in Blacksburg that runs largely with graduates
from those two schools.
Jonathan Hagmaier, the founder of Interactive Achievement and now CEO of Common
Wealth, says he invests in Roanoke and Blacksburg largely because he knows start-ups can
get off the ground more efficiently here than in
San Francisco or New York. Operating costs are
lower and employees are happy with the quality
of life a smaller city offers.
region has every piece possible that you
would need for a new-age economy, and
being actively pieced Hagmaier says.
In 2016, Italian auto-parts maker Eldor
Corporation announced it would invest $75
million and create 350 jobs at its fi rst U.S. plant
in Botetourt County. Eldor expects to be fi lling
customer orders by April 2018.
were looking for locations that are business friendly, that are open, where people are
says Luca Forte, corporate
supply chain director. found those characteristics prett strong here in
Eldor also saw programs at New River and
Virginia Western community colleges that have
been tailored to meet the needs of regional
employers. The mechatronics program at Virginia Western, which incorporates mechanical
systems, electrical systems and information
technology into one discipline, has been so successful that become a part of the tour that
officials give economic development prospects.
collaborative effort between the
mechatronics program and Botetourt County
schools is an expanded incentive program,
says Gary Larrowe, Botetourt county administrator. growing our workforce and
grooming the employees of the
The area is home to some of the leading experts in the autonomous vehicle industry,
both through the Virginia Tech Transportation
Institute and private companies such as TORC
Robotics. Virginia Tech also is one of only six
drone test sites designated by the Federal Aviation Administration. When parent
company, Alphabet, decided to experiment with
drone food delivery for the fi rst time in September, the tech giant chose Blacksburg as the place
it would come to lower burritos from the sky.
The experiments made national news, turning
heads with a wacky glimpse into the future.