Collaboration and Communication: How to Get Ahead in Today’s Economic Development World

Site selectors and businesses consider several factors when expanding or opening new locations. There is the obvious—cost of doing business, incentives, location. Then there are the bonuses—placemaking, livability, aesthetic beauty. There is, however, a wildcard that sets this region apart from the rest—a collaborative, unselfish effort among multiple partners to assist businesses during onboarding and beyond. Efforts to answer the labor availability question are collaborative, and, in the Roanoke Region, a true differentiator in the competition to attract jobs and investment.

The Roanoke Regional Partnership’s relationships with educational institutions and state and local workforce partners continue to improve the region’s competitiveness for investment. The Partnership, together with its partners, continue to find innovative way to solve new challenges.

Workforce/Talent Partnerships

The region is blessed with strong higher education assets. The Roanoke Regional Partnership has a long history of making connections between expanding companies and training assets including the notable examples of Mack Trucks, Schaefer Rolls, and Eldor Corporation.

The Partnership is contributing even greater value through its talent strategies and in partnership with local, regional and state partners. RRP has collaborated with localities, the Greater Workforce Development Board, and the Virginia Talent Accelerator to assist a number of active expansions regionally including STS Group, who recently selected Salem for its North American headquarters.

This project, along with others soon to be announced, has acted as a prototype for a new, custom, collaborative regional toolkit to assist new and existing businesses to ensure successful launches and continued growth. The Partnership’s talent solutions strategies are fast becoming an important regional tool to support basic sector, project-based scale-up operations.

State Partners 

Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) is a key partner when it comes to lead generation, assisting business expansions, real estate development support, and talent solutions including the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program (VTAP). VTAP accelerates facility start-ups and expansions by expediting recruitment and shortens the new-hire curve.  The program is geared towards traded sectors which sell a majority of goods and services outside of the Commonwealth that meet specific investment and job creation/wage criteria. 

The Roanoke Region has developed specific programs to answer the questions of industries who are evaluating the region for expansion opportunities.  When it comes to assistance with training and recruitment, a collaborative network of local and regional partners are available to assist.  Collaboration and communication are keys to unlocking regional success. 

To attract investment, you must be creative and be able to leverage your assets. In addition to hard assets like location, real estate, and incentives, the Roanoke Region can rely on the intangibles like cooperation and collaboration among educational institutions, local, regional, and state partners.

Three Regional Sites to Receive Grant Funding for Site-Ready Development

There are big things on the horizon for the Roanoke Region. On Monday, Governor Youngkin announced additional grant funds for 21 business sites across the Commonwealth, three of which are here in the Roanoke Region.

The state announced $90 million in Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP) grants to develop industrial sites throughout Virginia, $3.88 million of which going to sites represented by the Roanoke Regional Partnership. The selected properties include Alleghany Regional Commerce Center in Alleghany County, Wood Haven Technology Park in Roanoke County, and the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology in the City of Roanoke. Below is a breakdown of exact dollar amounts awarded.

  • Alleghany Regional Commerce Center: $3,290,00
  • Wood Haven Technology Park: $504,149
  • Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology: $85,000

The Roanoke Regional Partnership supported these applications which will improve regional site readiness throughout the region, thus, preparing sites to attract new business and make our region (and state) more competitive in the economic development landscape. The grant program sent representatives from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and professional site consultants to assess the potential of industrial sites which must contain a minimum of 100 contiguous, developable acres. 

Partnership leadership recognizes the importance of real estate development in competing for new investment and expansion. Proof of that is Thrive 2027, the Partnership’s strategic plan, where a priority area is to support governments and developers in their efforts to develop real estate.

View the state’s press release with exact dollar values awarded and get details about the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP).

Five Wins in 2022 that Signal Strength and Resiliency

It’s the end of the year–the perfect time to reflect on the past 365 days while planning for the year to come. In our musings,business professionals posing for a groundbreaking ceremony with shovels and hardhats. there were some key data points that emerged this year that we consider significant wins.  From economic growth and employment to migration and housing development, there are promising signs of growth for our professionals posing for a groundbreaking ceremony with shovels and professionals posing for a groundbreaking ceremony with shovels and hardhats.

Here are five major wins from a year of monitoring and analyzing trends and providing best-in-class research services and thought leadership.

  • Real GDP increased 4.8 percent in the Roanoke market between 2020 and 2021, the largest increase in decades (and during a period in which 169 metro regions experienced slower growth). Key Takeaway: economic growth is at its highest level in decades.
  • Goods-producing employment is at its highest level in the Roanoke Region in 15 years, posting an 11-percent increase since April of 2020. Key Takeaway: employment opportunity has rebounded, and our strong workforce has answered the call.
  • Housing development is accelerating with numerous developments offering both multi-family and single-family options. Units authorized are up 33 percent since 2018 and are projected to remain at an elevated level through the years ahead by Moody’s Economy. Key Takeaway: people need places to live; housing development in the region will translate into future growth.
  • Costs of living and doing business remain advantageous in the Roanoke Region. In an environment of national inflation, the region’s cost of doing business is 18 percent below average and cost of living is nine percent below national average. Key takeaway: living, working, and doing business in the Roanoke Region is easy.
  • Migration remains positive. The region’s investment in placemaking and livability has returned dividends with in-migration of more than 7,572 over the previous decade.  Earlier this year, our executive director, John Hull, shared his observations on the importance of investment and strategy in influencing migration and economic opportunity regionally.  Key takeaway: People are moving to the region because it’s a great place to live.

Overall, we have a lot to be thankful for and excited about. The region has shown its resiliency post-pandemic, forecasting promise for the years ahead. Our community is well-situated to benefit from growth and further investment in several ways– we have strong business sites designed and constructed to provide speed-to-market for more traded-sector businesses which contribute new wealth to the economy; we boast strong workforce and training programs to address workforce demands; and we have an ideal location providing access to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population in a day’s drive, and other advantages that distinguish the region.  There are, indeed, many reasons to be bullish on the region’s future.

Sources: Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Moody’s Economy, and Council for Community and Economic Research

Goodwill Industries Unveils New, Restorative Economic Development Project

City of Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea addresses a crowd at the unveiling of a community project

On November 1, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys unveiled their “Restoring Our Community” initiative for the campus on Melrose Avenue. Thanks to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the current building will be renovated to support a market, banking center, wellness center, and school for adult education. This new endeavor aims to restore the Northwest community by creating 100 jobs, eliminating food deserts, addressing health disparities, and providing banking services for individuals and small businesses in the area.

For years, City of Roanoke residents in the northwest quadrant have experienced the negative effects of food deserts in their community. Community advocates have been working to solve these inequities, but financial resources and real estate always seemed to be an issue. However, all of their efforts were laying the foundation for the future. In 2022, the City formed the Star City Strong Recovery and Resiliency Panel to help allocate ARPA funds, and this project was the obvious choice to make a positive impact on the community in several ways.

John Hull, Roanoke Regional Partnership executive director said, “When I served on the Star City Strong Recovery and Resiliency Panel, it was clear to me and the entire group the project had many strengths and served a vital need. Goodwill Industries and the City of Roanoke have designed an incredibly well-thought-out initiative that is sure to contribute to regional success.”

They say economic development is a team sport; this effort indeed took a lot of people from both public and private entities to come to fruition. The City of Roanoke, Northwest Roanoke Food Access Initiative, Goodwill Industries of the Valley, and several community leaders and stakeholders all worked together to fill the gaps in the community, and their dedication to Roanoke has resulted in an economic restoration project with ripple effects that will reach far beyond Northwest Roanoke.

The community can expect the new facility to be completed by the end of 2024. To learn more about this project, please visit Goodwill’s Restoring Our Community website.