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. 

Spring Break: Cycling Magazine Features Roanoke Region

The mountain biking scene in the Roanoke Region is as robust as any out there. The locals know it, riders around the state know it, and those outside the region are beginning to take notice. The secret is beginning to get out.

Mountain biking lifestyle magazine Dirt Rag – “Your independent mountain bike magazine, since 1989″ – recently featured a trip to the Roanoke Region as part of it’s spring bike testing trip. The team set up shop at New Castle’s Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, just north of Roanoke, Va in Washington-Jefferson National Forest.

While Wilderness Adventure served as Dirt Rag‘s basecamp, the team sampled several trail systems in the region. Price Mountain, Dody Ridge, Spec Mine, and Mill Mountain were all mentioned and praised in the article. The team spent two days riding the Carvin’s Cove, and were particularly impressed with the “Gauntlet” trail. 

A sample: 

“The final day took us into Roanoke for breakfast and a stop at Underdog Bikes. From there we hit up another city park, Mill Mountain. Located about five minutes from downtown, the park boasts 12 miles of singletrack and is a favorite spot of locals’ for lunch rides. Smooth, well maintained trails; it was a great way to wrap up our trip.

There is a huge variety of trails in the area, and it would be easy to tailor rides to fit riding fitness, skills and preferences. We rode everything from a rigid 29+ to a 160mm all mountain bike, and everyone was smiling.”

Check out the full article here >>>

Big Changes Draw Big Crowds to 2014 Blue Ridge Marathon

Blue Ridge Marathon Continues Growth, Success

Blue Ridge Marathon runnersCloudless skies and cool temperatures greeted runners in downtown Roanoke on Saturday morning for the fifth running of the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. This year’s race proved to be bigger and better than ever, continuing the success of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon.”

The Roanoke Region’s showcase running event lived up to the billing in 2014, with a larger venue, larger crowds, and more runners than ever.

Big Changes, Big Crowds

The 2014 Blue Ridge Marathon was tougher than ever. A course modification upped the elevation change to nearly 7,500 feet for the full marathon and more than 3,600 feet for the half marathon, but that did not stop nearly 2,000 runners from accepting the challenge. Also new this year was the addition of the Anthem StarK 10K run which took racers up to the Mill Mountain Star and back, giving runners a shorter race option. The half marathon proved to be the most popular race option with over 750 finishers.

Not all changes had to do with the course however. The start/finish line was located at the newly renovated Elmwood Park, giving the large crowds a perfect staging area for pre- and post-race activities. Live music, vendors, a beer garden, and hundreds of cheering fans greeted runners as they crossed the finish line and received their food and medals. The park took on a party atmosphere as more and more racers made their way through the corral and into the amphitheater to stretch their legs and cash in their complimentary beer ticket. It may have only been 10 a.m. but they certainly deserved a cold one from sponsors Parkway Brewing or Starr Hill, who were both pouring pints all day.

The combination of near-perfect weather and the new venue created a vibrant atmosphere at Elmwood.

“The timing couldn’t have been better, the newly renovated Elmwood Park opened up and it was the perfect time to move the finish line, have it here, showcase this community, showcase this park, and it was spectacular,” Roanoke Regiona Partnership Director of Outdoor Branding and Race Director Pete Eshelman told race sponsor WDBJ-7 following the event.

Local Support, Worldwide Reach

The 2014 race drew competitors, fans, and spectators from over 40 states across the U.S. and five countries across the world, many being exposed to the beauty of the Roanoke Region for the first time. Hundreds flooded the finishing area to cheer racers through the finish line, and even more lined the course to encourage runners to get to the top of the next hill, not to mention the army of volunteers manning the course. The community support goes a long way toward creating an inviting atmosphere that runners enjoy and will keep them coming back, says Catherine Fox with Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

“You’ve got people coming here to experience [the race], figure out why it is the toughest road marathon and they’re here discovering that,” she said. “When you have people from 40 different states, several countries, as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, they’re taking that message back and that message is what brings people here.”

The Roanoke Regional Partnership created the Blue Ridge Marathon to showcase the region’s commitment to making outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship a core component of the Roanoke Region lifestyle. Over the first four years, the marathon has generated over $1.5 million for the local economy, including nearly $500,000 in 2013 alone. 

From Day to Night

Staging the event at Elmwood Park not only give the day a festival-type atmosphere, it also allowed for a new way to cap the marathon. The race-day festivities transitioned seamlessly into the Down by Downtown Music Festival headliner G. Love & Special Sauce, who played a show at Elmwood starting around 6 p.m. Racers could purchase a discounted concert ticket with their race bib, and many stuck around Saturday night to enjoy the show. Providing weekend-long entertainment for visitors and the community as a whole should prove to be a winning combination for the future.

All in all, the 2014 Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon was a huge success for the Roanoke Region, continuing to put the area’s natural beauty and outdoor community on display. 


Check out all the post-race action including photos, race comments and more on the Blue Ridge Marathon Facebook Page >>>

Race results can be found on the official Blue Ridge Marathon race website >>>

Photos of winners receiving their medals can be found on Flickr >>>

Check out all the coverage, including videos and interviews from WDBJ >>>

The Roanoke Regional Partnership would like to thank the following organizations for their support of the Blue Ridge Marathon: Foot Levelers, Anthem, WDBJ, Carilion Clinic, Fink’s Jewelers, Tag Heuer, Roanoke City, and Roanoke Parks and Recreation. See a full list of sponsors, volunteers, and community partners >>>

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Math Madness Gets National Attention

Your shot at Warren Buffet’s billion dollars may be over, but one quest for the perfect, or at least better, bracket is putting the national spotlight on one Roanoke Region school. CBS News featured a math program at the Roanoke Valley Govenor’s School focused on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. 

Picking up on a story by local affiliate WDBJ-TV, CBS News ran the story on the homepage of their website. The piece features the unique way the Governor’s School implements the real-world applications of linear algebra using the NCAA tournament as a bracket as a learning tool. 

“I’m not a big basketball fan, but, teaching seniors in the spring, you have to have something that’s exciting that’s also educational to keep them motivated, and this seems to work,” Linda Gooding, the classes instructor told CBS. “It’s really applying math in a fun way for something that they all are interested in – the March Madness”

The students are tasked with picking the best brackets based on mathematical models, the same process students at Davidson, Georgia Tech, and Princeton use to predict their brackets. The brackets are then compared and pitted against the others in the class. The winner is awarded an A, and has bragging rights among their classmates. 

The Roanoke Region is known for its Acclaimed Higher Education with over 25 colleges and universities in the area, but now the high school STEM teachings of the region are also drawing national attention. This innovative way to teach the material, while also keeping it fun to hold students’ attention is what puts the Roanoke Region on the cutting edge of education. 

Read the story and see the video on >>>