Roanoke Regional Partnership Hosts Nationally Recognized Site Consultants for Familiarization Tour

Blond woman at a table with two other people talking to an audience
Amy Gerber of Cushman & Wakefield gives her thoughts on the Roanoke Region during a consultant panel discussion.

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:


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.”

Group of five people seated at a table for a panel discussion.
Jason El Koubi (far left) of Virginia Economic Development Partnership moderates a site consultant panel discussion with four site consultants during the Roanoke Region Familiarization Tour. Panels are (from left to right): Charles Ruby, Amy Gerber, Lindsey Cannon, and Joe Gioino.

“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

A woman from behind as she looks on at a painting in an art museum.
One of the site consultants examines a painting at the Taubman Museum of Art during the Roanoke Region Familiarization Tour.

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 Theme

A Blend of Small-Town Charm and Urban Sophistication

A group of people gathers at the atrium of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute for a presentation.
Roanoke Regional Partnership personnel, site consultants, and FBRI employees gather prior to a tour of the facility.

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.

Image of custom gift box and items that will go inside.
Custom gift box featuring mountain and metro elements from all eight localities that make up the Roanoke Region. Around the box are the various gifts included inside to tell the region’s story of industry, outdoors, placemaking, and pride.

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.

Roanoke Region Well-Positioned for Talent Attraction, Get2KnowNoke Ready to Help

Residents of the Roanoke Region know that it’s an ideal place to set up shop and put down roots, and now, word is spreading. Several recent studies confirm that the Roanoke Region is well suited to attract business and a talented workforce, and the Partnership’s Talent Attraction arm, Get2KnowNoke, is ensuring the region is poised to welcome and develop its workforce.

A leading labor market analysis company, EMSI/Burning Glass recently updated a study on talent attraction which scores each city and county in the nation based on five factors:

  • migration
  • job growth
  • education
  • competitiveness
  • job openings

Four localities in the Roanoke metro area are ranked in the top 25 percent nationally based on talent attraction. Simply put, we are doing much better developing our talent pool when compared to other localities and regions. A 2021 study by the Pew Research Center found that the preference for suburbs is increasing, which is also reflected by positive in-migration data for the Roanoke Region. Real estate data from Zillow shows that quality-of-life and cost-of-living factors are becoming more important as people look towards mid-size regions and re-evaluating their lives in a post-COVID-19 era.  In fact, we can attribute recent population growth in the region to people moving to the suburban areas in the region. With birth rates slowing nationally, compounded by an aging and retiring population, it is more important than ever to continue making the region attractive to talent.

How Are We Supporting This Influx of Talent?

Get2KnowNoke Talent Ambassadors (John Park, Bonnie Chavez, Courtney Proffitt)

That’s where Get2KnowNoke comes in. We are increasing our workforce development and talent-attraction efforts with a new talent-ambassador program, professional development and networking opportunities, and a brand revamp for better outreach to current employers and professionals. We have recently established a group of talent ambassadors to tell their stories of coming to and working in the region. These residents can relate to new and existing professionals and can connect them with the necessary people and resources to be successful.

In addition, Get2KnowNoke has created the Roanoke Regional Professionals Network, the first professionals’ network in the region for all career levels. The network aims to provide quarterly social engagements for professionals as well as professional development and learning opportunities. One of those is the annual Experience Conference. It is slated to take place in June and will focus on aspects of leadership and tenacity within our small-business community.

Get2KnowNoke is also concentrating its efforts on a re-branding campaign to attract talent to the region’s growing workforce. This includes enhancements on the website like a regional job board to help college-enrolled students as well as talent external to our market (boomerangs, remote workers, etc.) find careers within the region’s job market. The site will also house a widely anticipated Employer Toolkit to help regional employers attract the best talent for business. The Partnership is focused on ensuring our employers and talent feel they have all the resources possible to be successful and supported in the Roanoke Region.

Our region is clearly attractive for prospective businesses and professionals, and we’re poised to welcome and support them as they call the Roanoke Region home. To stay up to date about Get2KnowNoke’s efforts, click here to sign up for the monthly newsletter. To learn more about the Roanoke Region itself, click here.

Thrive 2027 Update: Partnership Mission Focuses on Four Priority Areas

The Roanoke Regional Partnership commissioned Ernst & Young Economic Development Advisory Services on a strategic planning process that will direct the organization’s body of work through 2027. The consultant team and Partnership staff have conducted a public survey, engaged stakeholders in interviews and focus groups, and launched a detailed competitive assessment of the regional market and its opportunities. Four major priority areas have emerged during this process.

Four major priority areas that emerged during the Thrive 2027 strategic planning process.

The Partnership plans to roll out the five-year strategy at an investor update meeting to be scheduled in August 2021. 

The information below outlines the goals within each priority area. The consultant team is currently formulating an implementation plan which will focus on measurable outcomes and tactics to support each of the four priority areas.


Goal 1: Grow the Roanoke regional economy by amplifying business recruitment and expansion efforts, strengthening technology and innovation, and generating more high-paying jobs.

1.1 Elevate business recruitment, expansion and retention activities.

Enhance business investment cultivation through strengthened partnerships, increased marketing and media relations, and a coordinated business retention and expansion initiative.

1.2 Boost the region’s reputation as a technology and innovation hub.

Create a compelling narrative and communications strategy with input from education leaders and researchers, business executives and entrepreneurs, and public sector leaders.
1.3 Contribute to the success and retention of entrepreneurial companies.

Support start-ups and high-growth firms with relevant market intelligence, business-to-business introductions, site availability insights, and more.


Goal 2: Expand efforts to attract and retain in-demand talent.

2.1 Lead talent attraction marketing efforts for a young, diverse and skilled workforce.

Leverage the Partnership’s marketing expertise and established image in outdoor recreation in a larger program promoting the region’s livability and career opportunities to out-of-market talent.

2.2 Collaborate with education and workforce development partners to better align talent programs with employer needs.

Serve as a strategic partner and connector to help businesses engage more seamlessly with education and training initiatives.

2.3 Foster opportunities for greater diversity in the region’s workforce and leadership.

Ensure diversity is reflected in communications and all efforts of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. Identify ways to foster growth of diverse leadership.


Goal 3: Advocate for the acceleration of commercial and industrial real estate development and support advocacy for infrastructure improvement and funding.

3.1 Expand and strengthen the role of the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority as the authoritative resource on real estate supply, trends, needs, and potential.

Be the voice in proactively identifying and addressing needs for business in commercial real estate and work to develop an inventory necessary for economic development.

3.2 Serve as a thought leader on issues and infrastructure affecting economic competitiveness.

Provide data and information to shed light on needs in areas such as transportation, broadband, workforce, and other infrastructure.


Goal 4: Reinforce the region’s identity and competitive advantage as an outdoor destination, while highlighting other prominent lifestyle features and amenities, and supporting quality-of-life efforts.

4.1 Build on the success of Roanoke Outside with continued marketing and the development of sustainable funding for outdoors preservation and enhancement.

Sustain the region’s outdoors brand for business recruitment and talent attraction.

4.2 Continue to build the Get2KnowNoke brand to promote the diverse character and amenities of the region to appeal to a wider audience.

Amp up the Partnership’s livability story to include a message that appeals to a wider audience while maintaining the central core of outdoor lifestyle.

4.3 Monitor emerging quality of life concerns and serve as a regional thought leader in regards to placemaking and quality of life.

Utilize the Partnership’s research and data analytics capability to track and report on issues that can have an adverse impact on economic competitiveness and livability. The research can help inform efforts to mitigate problems, such as housing availability and affordability, and access to quality childcare, while expanding the Partnership’s reach in the broader community.

Questions? Email John Hull, Executive Director