From October 24 through October 26, the Roanoke Region rolled out the red carpet for five nationally recognized site consultants. During their three-day visit, they toured the region, learned its advantages relative to site selection, learned about existing industry, spoke with business and thought leaders, and experienced the beautiful mountain-metro mix of the region.
The following all-star roster of consulting professionals participated:
- Lindsey Cannon, Quest Site Solutions
- Brian Corde, Atlas Insight
- Amy Gerber, Cushman & Wakefield
- Joe Gioino, Newmark
- Charles Ruby, Deloitte
Rolling out the red carpet and learning from industry pros
They say first impressions are everything. Well, to that end, the main value of this program is communicating regional advantages and taking away lessons from professionals in the industry who experienced the region with fresh eyes.
“A lot of people are choosing to leave defined urban areas with high tax rates into locations that have a lot more open space, a lot more sunny days, and a lot more ability to keep your income in your pocket.”-Brian Corde, Atlas Consulting in reference
Brian Corde of Atlas Insight, who led the consulting effort behind the monumental Wells Fargo project, remarked that site selectors are now factoring in the preferences of Gen Z into location decisions. “[Gen Z is] starting to choose locations [that offer] entertainment options that are relatively inexpensive…which means having a lot of outdoor activity is really important to them. We see the migration patterns. We see what has happened post-COVID and where people are going. A lot of people are choosing to leave defined urban areas with high tax rates into locations that have a lot more open space, a lot more sunny days, and a lot more ability to keep your income in your pocket.” Brian sees the market continuing to be attractive for talent attraction and the overall growth trend continuing as the Roanoke Region has, “Great outdoor activity, great weather, and a stable political environment, a reasonable one…. [and] a good tax structure. Most importantly, you have places where people can actually live for reasonable amounts of money.”
“One of the positives of this region and for Virginia as a whole is the level of investment in training employees. It ranks so highly when we talk with our clients.”Amy Gerber, Cushman & Wakefield
Lindsey Cannon of Quest Site Solutions said it is important for a community to demonstrate a willingness to partner on the talent pipeline long term. “You have a diverse workforce and are able to fill the initial jobs, but we have also seen you are going to partner with that company for the long term.” Lindsey cited how the tour demonstrated training partnerships for new employers and long-standing legacy employers, noting that the region’s support for employers is a major accolade.
Amy Gerber of Cushman & Wakefield stated that modern industry requires a high diversity of skill levels and stated, “One of the positives of this region and for Virginia as a whole is the level of investment in training employees. It ranks so highly when we talk with our clients… When we look at a state like Virginia that has the appetite to help create those training programs…to benefit all skill levels, it is a big positive.”
“Lindsey Cannon cited how the tour demonstrated training partnerships for new employers and long-standing legacy employers, noting that the region’s support for employers is a major accolade.”
Joe Gioino of Newmark said the region “has the outdoors and quality of place, housing for Gen Z, and a place they want to live. There is a lot to offer. Keeping the quality of place and upgrading it will accelerate your growth.” Joe added he was surprised by the depth of manufacturing in the region which can be attractive to a variety of projects.
Charles Ruby of Deloitte stated the region has a high quality of life and the quality has been implemented into its real estate product. Design “with open spaces, walking trails, and retention ponds that look like beautiful lakes. If a client has a choice between a classic industrial park or a location that could host a world-class sales organization or R&D group, the company will choose the quality location.”
The Consultant Tour
A whirlwind of industry, workforce, education, and livability
Upon arriving in Roanoke, John Hull and Ann Blair Miller of the Roanoke Regional Partnership staff set the stage for the consultants by providing a quick regional overview. Then, the group hit the ground running. Their visit included existing-industry throughout the region. The group learned about available real estate and assets throughout the program. All local economic developers, educational partners, investors, and Partnership leadership were invited to take part in activities throughout the program.
Below are some of the tour highlights:
- The consultants attended an industry and workforce panel discussion moderated by Amy White, the Dean of STEM and Workforce Solutions at Virginia Western Community College. The panel focused on tangible examples of partnerships that have moved the needle on custom training and recruitment and have assisted both new entrants and legacy employers in meeting regional workforce needs.
- The consultants toured the region’s Innovation Corridor including stops at Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and the Carilion Clinic Center for Simulation, Research and Patient Safety.
- And of course, some play was thrown into the mix. Consultants were treated to a custom-curated, craft cocktail tutorial by a local mixologist using a locally-produced spirit. They enjoyed a social at Stock Café in Fire Station One as well as dinner upstairs in the Txtur banquet space with our local economic development teams. They dined at the Taubman Museum of Art and enjoyed a private tour of the installations. And the group experienced some of the best nightlife offered by downtown Roanoke.
A Blend of Small-Town Charm and Urban Sophistication
The Roanoke Region is the perfect blend of small-town charm and urban sophistication. And thus, woven throughout the visit was the theme of “Mountains Meet Metro.” Original design elements pulled from the region showcased the natural and rural amenities that attract tourists and residents alike paired with the metro elements that provide a high quality of place. From mountains, rivers, and land to fine dining, downtown living, and the arts. This theme was found in the custom-made gift boxes the consultants received upon checking into the Hotel Roanoke, each PowerPoint presentation they saw, the table cards and menus at dinners, and beyond.
Site consultants are the gatekeepers between economic developers and businesses. If an organization or business is looking to relocate or expand, they typically contact a site consultant with a list of “must-haves” for their potential new location. The site consultants then seek out regions that meet those requirements and present them to the business. This familiarization tour is the Roanoke Region’s opportunity to tell our business, talent, and livability stories in front of an influential audience, our chance to showcase advantages and make a lasting impression.
The Partnership’s business investment team travels to national and global events regularly to meet with site consultants and keep Roanoke top of mind. Rarely, however, does the opportunity to show them firsthand present itself. The Partnership, its local partners, and its public and private leadership seized the moment and delivered an impactful message.
Over the next few weeks, the Partnership will share additional insights and content gleaned from the consultant familiarization tour. Stay tuned for more.