Blue Ridge Marathon Brings Largest Economic Impact to Date

Blue Ridge MarathonThe Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon brought over a half million dollars into the local economy, according to a new report released by the Roanoke Regional Partnership

In a study conducted following the race on April 26, the data shows the marathon, half marathon, and Star 10K generated $521,000 in economic impact. Over the past five years, the race has contributed more than $2 million to the local economy. 

See the full press release below, and visit for more details:

Race Brings Largest Economic Impact to Date

Blue Ridge Marathon, Half Marathon, and Star 10K create $521,000 economic impact

ROANOKE, Va., (June, 2014) ­– More racers from out of town brought more money into the Roanoke Region’s economy during the fifth annual Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, half marathon, and Anthem Star 10K. “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” hosted 1,594 runners who generated over $521,000 in economic impact according to a new study. Over the past five years, the event has contributed more than $2,000,000 to the local economy.

A post-race survey determined the April 26 races created $322,200 in direct new sales activity, plus an additional $199,126 in indirect and induced spending for a total of $521,326 – up 9 percent over 2013. Activity surrounding the event will also support 6.1 jobs in the regional economy over the period of one year.

The economic impact is larger this year as a result of increased participation by runners from outside the Roanoke Region. The race drew runners from 38 states – in addition to the District of Columbia – and six countries: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The number of runners participating from outside the region grew by 6.4 percent over 2013; average visitor spending increased by over 21 percent among those traveling at least an hour and a half.

“The results of this year’s study demonstrate that we’re meeting our goal of becoming a destination event. It also reinforces awareness of the Roanoke Region’s outdoor amenities and reaffirms that our growing reputation as an outdoor destination leads to economic development,” said Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “This study doesn’t count money spent by our own residents, it only factors in money spent by visitors, people from outside our region.”

The Partnership and Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission prepared a participant survey to measure the event’s economic impact. Respondents were asked to report the amount spent on fuel, meals, lodging, miscellaneous retail purchases and admissions while in the study area.

Along with national interest in the race – buoyed by exposure in Conde Nast Traveler, Runners World, and Daily Burn – local interest grew as well. A new 10K race option, starting location, and post-race concert in conjunction with the Down by Downtown Music Festival, brought the community out to Elmwood Park. The race was also once again broadcast live by WDBJ-7, who reported large viewership throughout the race.

”For WDBJ7, the 2014 Blue Ridge Marathon was a success on several fronts,” said WDBJ-7 General Manager Jeffrey Marks. “Our viewers saw compelling coverage, our advertisers were able to support a large community event and more than 50 of our employees and volunteers enjoyed putting the coverage together.”

More than 44 percent of all survey respondents reported staying in town for at least one night. Approximately 35 percent stayed between one and two nights. The average length of stay among overnight visitors was 1.81 nights.

About 48 percent of all respondents reported traveling with family or friends, up from 46 percent in 2013. Respondents were asked to report the number of non-participants that traveled with them. The average size of the travel party among overnight visitors was 2.3, up from 2.1 in 2013. Day-trip visitors traveled with an average of 1.4 others per participant, up from 0.9.

The race course started in downtown Roanoke and climbed to the top of Mill Mountain and Roanoke Mountain along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway for a total elevation change of 7,430 feet, making it America’s toughest road marathon.

“As the event continues to grow, it is becoming much more than a race; it’s a destination, bucket-list race that attracts visitors while providing an avenue for community residents to become more healthy and active. More than 30 organizations and sponsors, and 475 volunteers, understand what this event means to our community,” said Eshelman.

“We’ve been a proud member of the Roanoke community since 1987 and promoting wellness is a core value” said Anthony Conversa, vice president of sales and marketing for Foot Levelers. “Supporting the Blue Ridge Marathon is a natural fit and as we grow together we’ll have the ability to help more and more people live healthy, active lifestyles.”

The 2015 races are set for April 18.

To view the full economic impact report, visit

Despite Sluggish Economy, Roanoke Region Shows Strong Growth Indicators

O. Winston Link MuseumTwo new reports show that the Roanoke Region’s economy continues its strong growth despite the still sluggish economy. 

In a study conducted by Area Development titled, Leading Locations for 2014: U.S. Metros Ranked for Economic and Job Growth, Roanoke fared well against other metros in the U.S. Using data compiled from as far back as 2008, Area Development analyzed economic and work force data for 379 metropolitan statistical areas with the goal of identifying cities emerging as front runners in economic development. 

The Roanoke Region landed in the top 27 percent of the field, ranking 104 out of the 379 metro areas. Roanoke also ranked in the top third for economic strength indicators and for being a “recession-busting” city. Reflecting the strength of economic growth in the region, Roanoke ranked 79th for real gross metro product growth. 

In the introduction to the study, Area Development cited quality of life as one of the leading reasons for the location of a new business.

“One of the areas most overlooked when comparing competing metro areas is a livability factor, or quality of life, that makes certain areas more attractive to individuals and thus businesses. One of the most often cited reasons for the location of a new business, especially a small business, is quality of life, yet it is one of the areas policymakers most often overlook in attracting entrepreneurs and the highly skilled people who most often work for them.”

The low cost of living, dynamic communities, and high quality of life in the Roanoke Region will continue to put Roanoke at the top of metro areas for attracting business in 2014 and beyond.

In addition to the Area Development ranking, the latest unemployment report saw the Roanoke metro area improve in April. Unemployment for April, 2014 was 4.8%, the lowest reading since December 2008. 

Roanoke Region Offers Lowest Cost of Living in Virginia

Downtown RoanokeThe numbers are in and the Roanoke Region again ranks as the top of the list when it comes to cost of living. 

Numbers released by the Council for Community and Economic Research for the first quarter of 2014 rank the Roanoke metro area as having the lowest cost of living index in the state. With and index of 91.6, costs in Roanoke are 8.4 percent lower than the national average of 100. Roanoke is the 68th lowest cost metro market in the country, and is in the top 25 percent of metros nationally. 

The numbers put Roanoke well below the national average for costs and ahead of similarly sized metro markets in the South such as Richmond (100.6), Asheville (105.7), and Chattanooga (94). New York City ranked highest in cost of living with an index more than twice the national average (220.3), followed by Honolulu, HI in second (175.1). 

The Cost of Living Index measures regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for professional and managerial households in the top income quintile. It is based on more than 90,000 prices covering 60 different items for which prices are collected quarterly by chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and university applied economic centers in each participating urban area. Small differences should not be interpreted as showing a measurable difference.

The composite index is based on six component categories – housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. 

Cost of Living Index, 2014 – 1st Quarter
  Composite Grocery Housing Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc. 
Roanoke 91.6 90.2 90.8 99.1 91.3 94.8 90.2

Use our cost of living calculator to see how far your dollar will go in the Roanoke Region.

13 Roanoke Region Schools Earn 2014 State VIP Honors

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Board of Education announced the 2014 Virginia Index of Performance (VIP) awards for advanced learning and Achievement this week. A total of 13 Roanoke Region Schools were recognized for exceeding minimum state and federal accountability standards and achieving excellence goals established by the governor and board. 

Crystal Springs Elementary of Roanoke and Roanoke County’s Cave Spring High and Hidden Valley Middle schools earned 2014 Board of Education Excellence Awards. Botetourt County’s Breckinridge Elementary, Salem’s South Salem Elementary, and Roanoke County’s Cave Spring Elementary, Cave Spring Middle, Clearbrook Elementary, Fort Lewis Elementary, Glenvar Middle, Hidden Valley High, Oak Grove Elementary, and Penn Forest Elementary earned 2014 Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Awards. 

“I am pleased to congratulate Virginia’s teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators whose commitment to innovation and excellence have made the Commonwealth’s schools leaders among our economic competitors,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “The educators and support staff in these award-winning schools — and in all of our public schools — have dedicated their careers to building brighter futures for our young people and providing pathways for success in a 21st Century economy. I look forward to visiting as many of these schools as possible and celebrating their accomplishments.”   

The schools earned 2014 VIP awards based on student achievement and other performance indicators during the 2012-2013 school year.

Find out more about the awards and read the full release >>>