Governor McDonnell Announces Agreement to Extend Amtrak Service to Roanoke

– Train Travel Will Return to Star City for First Time in 34 Years –

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and Norfolk Southern Corporation have entered into an agreement to improve rail related infrastructure between Lynchburg and Roanoke. The improvements will allow passenger rail to once again serve the Roanoke Region. Governor McDonnell’s 2013 transportation funding plan was instrumental in funding the return of intercity passenger rail service to Roanoke.
“DRPT and Norfolk Southern continue their strong partnership to advance intercity passenger rail service in the state of Virginia,” said Governor McDonnell. “Intercity passenger rail service is central to the Commonwealth’s economic growth, vitality and competitiveness in the region. Now the major population centers will have intercity passenger rail service.”
“The historic transportation bill has opened the door for continued expansion and growth of intercity passenger rail service in the State. The extension of intercity passenger train service from Lynchburg to Roanoke would not be possible without passage of this legislation,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton.
“During this administration, new train service to Norfolk, and funding for the continuation of six state regional trains occurred,” said Thelma Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). “With the signing of this agreement, the State will be able to extend Amtrak Virginia daily intercity passenger train service to Roanoke within four years with direct same seat service to as far north as Boston.”
Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern Chairman and CEO, stated, “Norfolk Southern is proud to expand our partnership with DRPT and the Commonwealth. Virginia’s leadership enables both passenger mobility and economic development through a strong rail network.”
“The signing of the agreement between Norfolk Southern and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is an important milestone in bringing Amtrak rail service to our community. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Commonwealth, the Roanoke Valley region, and our city, and with this signed agreement we can accelerate the return of passenger rail to the valley,” said Roanoke City Mayor David A. Bowers.
Included in this agreement are track additions and realignments, signal and communication upgrades along the route, clearance adjustments, and a platform and train servicing facility in downtown Roanoke. Design work will begin immediately. In another effort funded by the Commonwealth and Norfolk Southern, the downtown Roanoke rail connections are currently being reconfigured to improve the flow of train traffic through Roanoke, which is a prerequisite to reintroducing passenger rail service.
Known as the “Amtrak Virginia” partnership, Roanoke is the latest step for the Commonwealth to lead the way as one of the few states in the country to successfully negotiate the addition of new intercity passenger rail service in major rail corridors, balancing freight and economic development needs with additional intercity passenger rail options.
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Partnership Assists in August Announcements

Two new companies – Ardagh Group and Canline Systems – are moving to the Roanoke Region.

Ardagh Group, a Luxembourg-based global leader in metal and glass packaging for the food and beverage industry, will locate a state-of-the-art metal can manufacturing facility in the 525,000 square foot former Hanover Direct distribution center on Hollins Road.

The company will create 96 new jobs and invest $93.5 million in real estate and equipment. It is the largest single manufacturing investment in Roanoke County history.

Earlier this year Ardagh Group signed a long term supply agreement with a major customer, ConAgra, requiring the company to add capacity in the eastern United States. It selected Roanoke County over locations in Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Canline Systems, an international supplier of conveyor systems for the packaging industry, will open its first U.S. facility in Roanoke County, creating 25 new jobs over the next three years. The company is expanding to the U.S. to be closer to customers including Ardagh.

Netherlands-based Canline Systems designs and manufactures automated product conveyor systems that use magnetic and vacuum technologies in production lines.

The company will design, manufacture and assemble the systems at its 10,500 square foot facility at 6525 Commonwealth Drive in Southwest Roanoke County. The company will also serve other customers throughout the United States from this facility.

“In one month, we welcomed foreign direct investment from two companies,” said Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.  “That kind of presence strengthens the economy and reputation of the Roanoke Region.”

The Roanoke Regional Partnership and Roanoke County Office of Economic Development worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Department of Business Assistance, Appalachian Power, Norfolk Southern, Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group, and Roanoke Gas Company on the Ardagh project.  The Partnership, Roanoke County, and Waldvogel Commercial Properties worked together on the Canline Project.

Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital Recognized as a Top Hospital in Virginia

U.S. News and World Report recognized Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital as the 8th best hospital in the Commonwealth in its 2012-2013 Best Regional Hospitals ranking. U.S. News and World Report ranked 732 hospitals on 16 different specialties to arrive at its list of high performing hospitals. 

Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital was recognized for having a higher rate of patient satisfaction than the U.S. and Virginia averages. The ranking cites the hospital for high performance in gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, neurology, and urology. 

To see what U.S. News and World Report had to say about Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, you can visit the hospital’s profile at the U.S. News and World Report Best Regional Hospitals ranking site.

Water: Fuel for Food, Beverage Expansions

By Beth Doughty, Roanoke Regional Partnership Executive Director, for Business Facilities

Water is the fuel that drives the food and beverage industry.

With this summer’s drought straining water supplies in a large swath of the nation and creeping urbanization causing increasing restrictions on wastewater, food and beverage manufacturers are keeping an eye on one of their most important assets – the quality and quantity of their water supplies.

To remain competitive in these challenging conditions, some companies may be looking to expand or relocate to ensure future production and profitability. The Roanoke area is home to Pepsi and Coke bottlers, brewers, and food processors such as Maple Leaf Foods. The region was a finalist in the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company search. All these companies share needs for plenty of high-quality water and unusual discharge capacity.  Here are some things we’ve learned working with companies such as these:

  • Is there enough water? With many areas browned out from lack of moisture, supplying a large-scale operation requires sufficient capacity. Be sure to check the size of a region’s water supply and whether there’s a water grab in progress. Will there be enough water to fuel your growth? Here in the Roanoke Region of Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 32 million gallons of excess capacity are available daily.
  • Is the water quality good? When inspecting water quality, look for water that’s protected from development. Are there any upstream issues? How close are the headwaters of the watershed? Before doing anything, be sure to conduct an extensive scientific analysis of water quality. The Roanoke Region is at the top of the Roanoke River watershed and one of the several reservoirs is Carvins Cove, located in a massive conservation area surrounded by mountains. Several reservoirs ensure redundancy in case of drought or contamination.  Make sure there is an interconnected distribution system that provides a reliable supply.
  • What are the sewer rates? Quality and quantity are critical but sewer rates can really add to your operational expenses. How do rates compare to other regions? To the state overall? Here in Roanoke we enjoy rates that are 15 percent below the Virginia average.
  • What’s the treatment capacity? Sourcing and consuming water is one thing. Treating wastewater is also an important factor in a site selection. Does the locality have sufficient means to treat wastewater? Look for the average daily flow. If it’s near capacity it could restrict your future growth.
  • How soft is the water? Large sources of water range from soft to only moderately hard and don’t require softening for a wide range of industrial uses.
  • What are the surcharges? One of the things that companies like about our region is that our local water authority doesn’t place a pounds-of-waste surcharge on industrial sewage users. Look for advanced tertiary treatment system and unused capacity, which reduces or eliminates surcharges.
  • Are effluents restricted? Greater concentrations can require wastewater pre-treatment, which can add to the costs of doing business. Look for regions, like Roanoke, with liberal limits on effluents, thereby eliminating or limiting the need for pre-treatment.

Water isn’t the only factor for the industry to consider, of course. Transportation to key markets is crucial. Roanoke, for example, is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population. Other things to think about are workforce quality, cost of living and a sense of place – is the location a great place to live and work and not just a good source of water?

Like any site selection process, there are numerous factors to consider. But with water a limited and potentially costly resource now and into the future, it’s better to do your homework first.

Beth Doughty is executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. This article first appeared in “Business Facilities: The Location Advisor.” She can be reached at