The Roanoke Times recently interviewed John Hull, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, to discuss the surge in people moving back to the Roanoke Region after growing up here, getting their undergraduate here, or going to medical school here. These returning professionals are known as “boomerangs” in the talent attraction world and have been a big focus in the Partnership’s talent attraction efforts.
The article ‘Boomerangs’ fly back to Roanoke, New River valleys for medical careers (by Casey Fabris) focused specifically on people coming back to work in the live sciences, innovation, and medical research fields which have become a target sector for growth by the Partnership in recent years.
Those featured in the article mention the employment opportunities were important, but cited the arts & culture scene, low cost-of-living, easy access to outdoor amenities, and being a great place to raise a family as being crucial to their return.
Below is an excerpt featuring the interview with John Hull from the original Roanoke Times article by Casey Fabris, published on September 18, 2021.
John Hull, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, said the fact that people who previously lived, worked or attended school in the area are returning speaks to the quality of life here. It’s the desired result in the business of talent attraction. There’s even a name for it, he said, referring to such individuals as “boomerangs.”
“It’s really good to hear when folks have the opportunity to come back to this wonderful place we call home,” Hull said.
The pull toward home and family can be strong for those who are native to the region. But it can be a bit more challenging to attract professionals who don’t have that nostalgia factor or family nearby.
Business leaders tell Hull that if they can get job candidates to come for a visit, “a lot of times they bite, they make the commitment.” Higher education, including the medical school, can provide the same exposure, giving students a taste of what it might be like to build a life here.
It’s especially encouraging, Hull said, that graduates of the medical school are returning to the Roanoke Valley. They’re high-income and generally younger, an ideal population to attract.
Hull said the Roanoke Valley is “incredibly blessed” to have the medical school and research institute, valuable assets for economic development that most similarly sized regions lack.
Growth in the life sciences and biomedical fields offers a huge opportunity for the region “to bring in entrepreneurs, to bring in skilled talent, find the boomerangs, so to speak, the folks who have studied here, lived here, left and now could come back,” Hull said.