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Tech & Toast: Tech Showcase – February 22

Join us for a new kind of Tech & Toast where we meet after work and raise a glass to toast our region’s technology sector! Our first evening Tech & Toast will be a Tech Showcase featuring 10 RBTC member presenting in a PechaKucha format. This event is designed to allow you the opportunity to get to know more about your technology peers throughout the region. You will not want to miss our first evening Tech & Toast! Our presenters will be:

  • Aeroprobe
  • ACI
  • Card Isle
  • FluxTeq
  • Inorganic Ventures
  • MOVA
  • Pervida
  • Polymer Solutions
  • Qualtrax
  • Rackspace

Date: Thursday, February 22, 2018

Time: 5:30- 8:00pm

Event Schedule:

  • 5:30 pm – Registration, Happy Hour, Dinner
  • 6:15 pm – Program Begins
  • 7:15 pm – Program Concludes – Networking Resumes
  • 8:00 pm – Event Ends

Location: Holiday Inn Valley View – Grand Ballroom | 3315 Ordway Drive NW, Roanoke, VA 24017

Fee*: $35.00 Member before 2/17/2018 | $45.00 after 2/17/2018
$55.00 Future Member before 2/17/2018 | $65.00 after 2/17/2018
$15 Students

*Dinner is included with your registration.

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Ask the Cohort: Volatia

Volatia is a full-service language service company, providing on-site, over the telephone, and remote video interpretation and translation services in more than 280 languages. Volatia is led by Baraka Kasongo, recently recognized with the Regional Entrepreneur award at RBTC’s TechNite.


What motivated and inspired you to start your company? 

Baraka Kasongo: When my family moved to the United States, we experienced first-hand the language and cultural disparities that exist everywhere in health care, government, education, etc. Language and cultural disparities also exist in smaller situations like, parent-teacher conferences where the parents do not understand the messages being relayed, or when a student does not fully understand what is expected of them in the classroom. I remember taking classes where I did not understand anything but was later expected to take a test on the information. A few years after I learned how to communicate in English I noticed other people experiencing the same challenges and I decided that something needed to be done about it. I never actually planned to start a company and take on the challenge myself. Instead, I saw myself more as a coordinator of resources trying to put together a team that I could pass on to someone else. The challenge is that nobody wanted that kind of responsibility. What started as a volunteer effort, to try to put together local interpreters and translators that could help with the various language disparities, turned into a business model that is really thriving and growing at one of the fastest rates in the country.

What does success look like to you?

Baraka Kasongo: I succeed everyday, because success is not some futuristic goal I have. Success for me is doing the absolute best that I can each and everyday and taking care of people I work with. Success also includes, making sure that I do not neglect the things that are most important to me, which are my spirituality and family. As long as I have meaningful work and contribute to the happiness of the people I work with, I consider myself to have succeeded.

Tell me a little about your team.

Baraka Kasongo: I get excited when I talk about my team because I genuinely love them. They are all great people and each helps Volatia to run and operate smoothly. We have a large team since each of the 280 languages is technically its own division. We have thousands of interpreters across the country and that is how we are able to place people anywhere that they are needed.

What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Baraka Kasongo: The biggest challenge is hiring the right people and putting them in the right position. As a small business owner, I am used to wearing many hats, which can be dangerous when I expect others to have the desire and ability to do the same. I have found that when an employee is not in a position where they can achieve their maximum performance it really affects every aspect of an organization. The old adage that every link in a chain needs to be strong and tight is very true in the small business world. I try to understand what people actually want out of work. As for overcoming this challenge, I have performance benchmarks so both the individual being hired and the individuals on the team have the opportunity to assess themselves and openly share with me if they think they’re in the right place. By doing so, I hope to create a culture that encourages people to be okay with failure and to be opening to requesting department transfer without fear of being terminated or let go.

Has your company done something exciting recently?

Baraka Kasongo: Absolutely, we do something exciting almost every day. Some of the innovations and new technologies that we have pioneered are truly second to none. We are excited to see where our company is going in the future. 

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Baraka Kasongo: I would start by asking them to truly define what success, happiness, and fulfillment looks like to them. I would also advise them to spend time with people that have similar definitions in order to ensure it is what they want to do. Running and leading a small business is one of the most rewarding experiences, but it comes with sacrifices. I think one of the reasons businesses fail is because people do not take the time to understand what they are getting themselves into, and they fail to calculate the cost of running a business from familial, spiritual, and personal perspectives. I would ask them to reanalyze what they are truly pursuing and if they are still happy with it, and then I would encourage them to put their full heart into it and it watch it succeed despite the challenges.

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Ask the Cohort: Flex Metrics

Flex Metrics by SoftSolutions is led by Jay Foster. The company has been providing real-time production visibility technology for print, packaging, and manufacturing industries for almost 20 years.


What are you working on now/next?

Jay Foster: We are focused upon multi-site, enterprise reporting. This is one of the first significant benefits of the RAMP program in terms of prioritizing our product roadmap. We have realized that our most significant value is provided to large manufacturing firms, many of which have multiple sites. We are now pursuing a Cloud-based Enterprise reporting module to provide real-time visibility across different plant locations.

What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Jay Foster: Always the biggest challenge is related to people. Having the right people at the right time is always and obstacle. One way to overcome that is by networking, and knowing people in the community has been a huge help as well. The Roanoke community’s ability to find good people has been foundational.

What does success look like to you?

Jay Foster: That’s a good question. Happy customers are by far the number one measure of success for the company. If our customers are happy then I am happy. Number two is win-win relationships. This happens when our customers are gaining more financially from working with us and it is profitable for us to work with our customers as well.

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Jay Foster: Be careful and proceed with caution. Make sure to understand what your customers need and make sure they are willing and able to pay for it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to RAMP?

Jay Foster: I think it is a great idea. If you are really ready to grow your business then it will make a big difference. It is important that business owners understand that it is not an incubator, but rather an accelerator.

So you’re working with a mentor, tell me about that experience.

Jay Foster: It has been very good. It is always beneficial to get advice from someone who has been there. We have a very good mentor that gives excellent insights. He sees things we do not see because we are too close to it.

What feedback do you have about the classes RAMP offers?

Jay Foster: I think it provides a good common framework to communicate these core concepts of a business model and formula for scaling up.

Do you have any additional thoughts that you would like to share?

Jay Foster: I am glad that Roanoke is doing this and I am really glad that Virginia Western stepped up to make it happen, specifically Dr. Sandel.

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Ask the Cohort: DESA

DESA is a health care analytics and Telehealth company led by Jonathan Briganti, Dr. Anne Brown, Brian Elliott and David Trinkle, MD. They are developing a way for assessments, that are normally done inside a doctor’s office, to be done remotely on a digital medium in order to add data and communication for doctors and physicians to better support the diagnosis of health issues such as dementia, depression, anxiety, etc.


What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Jonathan Briganti: Our biggest challenge would be that we are not business-centered people. We all came from the science world where we know how to get grants for academic trials that run for several years on end but do not move very fast. When we transitioned to the business world we had to figure out how to adjust to the fast pace style. We had to learn about Patent Protection, forming LLC’s, getting office space, and forming connections. It is an entirely different side of life that we never really considered entering until we had this idea. Once we entered the business world, we had to move very quickly and the RAMP program has been very helpful with moving us in the right direction.

What are you hoping to get out of RAMP?

Dr. Anne Brown: We are hoping to get a more robust business plan and conceptual model for actually selling our product to multiple venues like, larger hospital systems, nursing home systems, school systems, etc. In order to do that we are hoping to get more guidance in what kind of models we need to set up for each of those.

Jonathan Briganti: I think connections are a very big thing as well. We have been very fortunate to have Victor Ianello as a mentor and to have been introduced to some very influential people in the area. It is great having those people that can open doors and help us get our name out there further than we thought was possible.

What do you like about the Roanoke area? Why do you want to be here and grow your company here?

Dr. Anne Brown: I grew up in Roanoke, went to Roanoke College for my undergrad, and attended Virginia Tech for graduate school. I think the area has a lot of potential for growth and many aspects that make the quality of life high. I think it is a great place for us, especially with the ability to tap into undergraduates at Virginia Tech as we grow and need more individuals in the engineering STEM fields. I think there is a great talent pool at Virginia Tech. From what I understand, students also enjoy the area due to the accessibility of nature in a metropolitan setting that still provides an affordability of living.  There is also a lot of movement and growth in the health care field through the Virginia Tech Carilion partnership.

Jonathan Briganti: I have really seen a big push from business owners, especially the ones involved in RAMP, for start ups to grow and succeed. We have had nothing but positive connections in Roanoke. Everyone wants to help us and see us succeed. Everyone we have connected with in Roanoke has been very thoughtful and helpful.

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Jonathan Briganti: If you have an idea, go for it. When this idea began, I was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and never thought I would have my own office a year later. We never thought the idea we had for a hackathon last April would last more than that weekend. We all joke that this has been the longest weekend of our lives. If you see a need in the world there is no reason you cannot be the one to solve that issue. Never decide not to pursue a particular field because you think you do not know enough about it, because you can learn.

Has your company done something exciting recently?  

Dr. Anne Brown: We are still exploring all the many channels and usability of this kind of app platform. Pretty much on almost a daily or weekly basis we learn about a different area that is interested or think they could use this kind of product in a certain way. Finding those things out though various market surveys is very interesting and exciting.

Jonathan Briganti: We just finished a beta version of the app so we are able to get focus testers out. The app is not connected with medical records at all, but for the first time we are having people use our app. It is exciting to have it in the hands of individuals out there and get their feedback.

So you’re working with a mentor, tell me about that experience.

Dr. Anne Brown: It is a wonderful experience. We need mentorship and we are fully open to that kind of guidance. I think it would be silly for us to not take the advice of someone who has been there before and has learned from experience, especially when it can help us get over different bumps along the road.

Jonathan Briganti: Coming into this we knew that there are a million things we should do in order for our business to succeed. It has been helpful to talk to someone who is so connected in the community and have them tell us that there are a million things that we can do, but these three things are the most important things to do right now. It has really allowed us to focus down and make a stronger business.

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Common Wealth Growth Group invests millions in Blacksburg’s Qualtrax

Roanoke’s newest investing firm is betting millions on its first local company: a 23-year-old software firm with a swanky new office and plans to finally shed its low profile.

Qualtrax only became a standalone business last year, after two decades inside Christiansburg’s CCS Inc. (now FoxGuard Solutions), which had made compliance software since the 1980s.

Qualtrax is preparing to make its public debut with a $3 million cash infusion.

The funding was led by Common Wealth Growth Group, the investing firm launched last year by Roanoke’s former Interactive Achievement CEO Jon Hagmaier. Other investors include San Francisco venture capital firm Lyden Capital and CCS executives Marty Muscatello and Tim Lawson.

With the investment announced Tuesday, Qualtrax President Amy Ankrum said she hopes to see things take off with more employees and better brand exposure right in Virginia Tech’s back yard.

Read the full story at The Roanoke Times website >>>

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Virginia Tech Eyeing Pharmaceutical Giants for Roanoke ‘Innovation District’

The Roanoke Times recently featured comments by Michael Friedlander, PhD, from our latest Tech and Toast:

“Virginia Tech is talking to large pharmaceutical firms about cooperating with the university on research projects and opening offices inside Roanoke’s new health care innovation district.

Michael Friedlander, founder of Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and a driving force behind the city’s growing health care industry, said that sort of partnership is only a concept, but affirmed that conversations are underway.

City Manager Chris Morrill said Roanoke currently doesn’t have a major pharmaceutical company. Landing one would be the kind of payoff that city and university officials promised when they unveiled grand plans for a new health care hub in March.

“That would be huge,” Morrill said. “It moves us closer to being that health science center on the east coast that we want to be.”

Speaking to a crowd of entrepreneurs at a Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council event on Thursday at The Inn at Virginia Tech, Friedlander said the university is in the middle of “at least three very active explorations” with the goals of partnering with pharmaceutical groups and convincing them to come to Roanoke.

Friedlander demurred when pressed after the event for details on these potential candidates, simply reassuring that “they’re big.”

“We’re having those kinds of conversations,” he said. “We’ll see where they go.”

While far from concrete, Roanoke’s pharmaceutical ambitions underscore the lofty goals attached to the so-called health sciences and technology innovation district.

But Friedlander’s vision for the hub, about a mile long and generally following South Jefferson Street between the Roanoke Public Library and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, is a lot bigger than one pharmaceutical company.

He said the goal is to have more startups spin out of Tech’s research labs. He wants more investors taking bets on local entrepreneurs, and more established companies opening offices in Tech’s backyard.

Friedlander said he’s not just pursuing drug researchers, but also medical device inventors, coders working on software and anyone else in health sciences and technology .

His hope, he said, is that companies will see the “intellectual value” of dropping their own researchers in the middle of a dense ecosystem, surrounded by others in the field.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: ROANOKE.com

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Take Five with Steve Critchfield, President of MOVA Technologies

Take Five is an ongoing RBTC question and answer series where we glean insights from local CEOs and technology leaders in the Roanoke-Blacksburg area.


In 1984 Steve Critchfield started a small tele-communication company that grew into what was to become Tele-Works in 1986. When it was sold in 2014, it provided electronic payments, such as utility payments and parking tickets, to local governments in 38 states, and three Canadian provinces. In addition, Steve started a small real estate development company and established over 50 rental properties at Rocky Acres, 10 miles from Virginia Tech in Ellett Valley. He has also helped young entrepreneurs start over 5 other companies – 4 of which have been successfully sold to larger companies. Steve’s philanthropic partnership with Virginia Tech has established the Steger Poetry Prize, the largest creative writing/poetry award of any university in both the US and Europe and
the Aaron Slack Memorial Diversity and Social Justice Fund which provides scholarships to deserving students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and funding to support programs and activities in the college which promote diversity and social justice.

Through his own contributions and other funds raised, he established the City Manager and Finance Program within the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy. Partnering with the Virginia Local Government Management Association, the program offers graduate-level training in local government management that both prepares pre-career students for capable public service at the local level and enhances the capacities of existing local government employees who aspire to be town, city, or county managers or assistant/deputy managers, or finance officers.
The program has now graduated over 200 students, and was recently awarded the top program by the International City Managers Association.

Steve’s lastest venture is Mova Technologies, an emerging technology company whose purpose is to “commercialize the patented method and apparatus for capturing particulate matter while utilizing panel-bed filtration technology… [resulting in reduced] maintenance and operating filtration costs associated with burning coal at coal-fired power plants while improving overall emission quality.”


 

RBTC: What are some of the regional resources that have contributed to your success?

Steve Critchfield: There were no true resources when I started my first company, Tele-Works, Inc., in October 1986. I began my own advisory board made up of business people, various Virginia Tech people, banks, and members of the telecommunications community around the country. Throughout the years of business, I continued to use an advisory board, which included other CEO’s.  I hope the RBTC will make it much easier to begin my new company, Mova Technologies, INC, through the many resources that they have made available to local technology startups.

RBTC: What makes the Roanoke-Blacksburg region such a good fit for your company?

Steve Critchfield: Personally, it is a good fit because I prefer to live in this area. This region has so much natural beauty and is less crowded than other areas in the state. It is also great to have access to like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off of and glean experience from. Though it is often referred to as the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, it really extends from Botetourt County to Pulaski County. The New River and Roanoke Valleys offer enough space for a new company to grow and flourish. There is a lot of great energy here, which also stems directly from the universities. Business owners should utilize these sources for potential employees from the idea generation to actual deployment and human resources.

RBTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow entrepreneur, what would in be?

Steve Critchfield: Network! There are people that can help you with problems because they’ve already handled the same issues before. Utilize specific networking. If you have banking issues, speak with a banker. Many people starting new businesses seek me out, and I tell them to get plugged in with the RBTC, and start reaching out to folks who have gone before them, seek guidance.

RBTC: What is one lesson you have learned over time that has made an impact on your business’ day-to-day operations?

Steve Critchfield: Do not make decisions too quickly. Learn to gather information, listen to people, and if possible, take a few days to make a decision. Creating a good Board of Directors is also important. Build it out of smart people who are willing to challenge you. Don’t take offense to their changes; they are challenging your business idea, not you personally. Lastly, do not let your ego get in the way.  If you are not ready for a Board, set up an advisory board always seek input from others then make your decision.

RBTC: How would you like to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region develop over the next 5 years?

Steve Critchfield: I would consider myself to be a “regionalist”. I grew up in Northern Virginia, which was/is a region, but I love this area. I hope to see the region become one unit working together instead of cities and towns. I know that the jurisdictions will stay the same, but I don’t want to feel the separation. I want to see the cities, towns, and counties keeping their individualities but working as one. I have jokingly, but with some seriousness, told people that I would like to re-name or nickname I-81 (from 581 to the Blacksburg bypass) the “Roanoke-Blacksburg Connector. ?I hope to see this region continue to pull together to bring higher paying jobs to this area. I want the Roanoke-Blacksburg region to become louder, stronger, and to attract more businesses, and people to our region, so that graduates who want to stay are able to.

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CEO Insights: The New Innovation District

CEO Insights is a new series on the RBTC blog that features technology and business perspectives from the RBTC President and CEO, Jonathan Whitt.


What’s in a name? In years past, particular areas of cities have been labeled “manufacturing district” or “industrial district” or even “garment district.” Now there’s a new designation – “innovation district”. You may have heard the term in reference to the Virginia Tech Carilion expansion in Roanoke. The leaders of these two anchor institutions plan to join forces to create a “medical hub” combining in-demand health science degree programs, students, additional research teams, technological expertise, and regional clinical practices. This unique blend of focused inputs will in turn launch businesses, create high-paying jobs, attract top medical practitioners and faculty, and ultimately improve Southwest Virginia healthcare.

Innovation districts are a growing trend in the U.S., which according to Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner of the Brooking Institution, “nurture living, breathing communities rather than sterile compounds of research silos”. Firms and workers want to find compact areas in which to live and work while surrounded by networking opportunities and new idea creation. Unlike the original model in Silicon Valley where firms were isolated on a campus or in an industrial park, innovation districts allow workers, businesses, and research to co-exist in one accessible space surrounded by housing and retail to support them. Innovation breeds in these districts, and so does economic growth.

Brookings defines them as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster while connecting with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. They’re also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired and offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail.” Innovation districts are found near anchor institutions like in Atlanta, Baltimore, or Cambridge, while some are in re-imagined industrial areas such as those in Boston, Chicago, or Seattle. Katz calls these districts the “ultimate mash-up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments – all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine.”

So, why is this “district” so important to our region? First, the Carilion/Virginia Tech alliance will foster collaboration between institutions, researchers, companies, investors, and entrepreneurs to create sustainable job growth and attract investors. Investment leads to new products and services launching which, according to Brookings, “help a city move up the value chain of global competitiveness”. Concentrating talent in specific areas of research and business creation with the support of the city’s outdoor and mixed-use amenities, will enable both institutions to complete on a global scale and set Roanoke apart among others districts around the country.

According to a recent Kaufmann report, dense environments help support entrepreneurial vibrancy. Entrepreneurs thrive because low-risk workspaces are created and crucial networking is close at hand as are resources, goods, and labor sharing – all helping to enhance innovation. In this “age of convergence”, focusing on applied sciences, biosciences, and digital technologies, definitely opens up new possibilities for commercialization.

What defines success? To reach full potential, a district must have economic, physical, and networking assets. Combined with a supporting, risk-taking culture, they create what Brookings calls an “innovation ecosystem – a synergistic relationship between people, firms, and place that facilitate idea generation and accelerate commercialization.”

Economic drivers, like Carilion and Virginia Tech, as well as firms and entrepreneurs focused on getting products and services to market serve to lay a strong foundation for the innovation district. Along with partners in these efforts such as the City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College, the Roanoke – Blacksburg Technology Council, and the new regional business accelerator coming to Jefferson Street, the innovation district is already coming to life. Neighborhood-building amenities – restaurants, recreation, coffee shops, hotels, and retail – all help to support the district’s success. Parks, shared spaces, greenways, shuttle buses, and pedestrian-oriented streets physically support the collaboration. Finally, networking assets strengthen ties and cultivate innovation across all players. All these assets weave the district together and tie it to the broader metro area, which expand the district’s influence well beyond the borders of Roanoke City, something that serves as a catalyst for growth across the entire region.

Successful innovation district practitioners share five strategies for success: build a collaborative leadership network, set a vision for growth, pursue talent and technology, enhance access to capital, and promote inclusive growth. When you overlay these five strategies on the core values and objectives of the Roanoke – Blacksburg Innovation Blueprint (a technology-focused plan for economic growth), the language is similar. The start of this innovation district creates a unique opportunity to transform the Roanoke – Blacksburg region into a nationally recognized hub for innovation.

The rise of innovation districts is a disruptive sign of the times for cities like Roanoke looking for a path forward. Carilion and Virginia Tech are leading the way and it’s the job of city and state government, financial institutions, and the business community to join the team. The result: a step toward building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for this region.

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RBTC Featured On Cox Connections TV

Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council president and CEO Jonathan Whitt was recently interviewed on Cox Connections TV. Check out the video and summary from the Cox 9 website:

“The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is a non-profit member-driven association of businesses and organizations in the greater Roanoke-Blacksburg region, working together to promote the growth and success of the region’s technology sector. Each year, the RBTC holds the TechNite Awards Banquet to celebrate the amazing achievements in technology-focused-entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership from across the region! The RBTC President and CEO, Jonathan Whitt, talks more about it and which individuals were honored this year in this segment from Cox Connections.”

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Take Five with Mary Miller, President of IDD

Take Five is an ongoing RBTC question and answer series where we glean insights from local CEOs and technology leaders in the Roanoke-Blacksburg area.


Mary Miller, Ph.D. is president and founder of Interactive Design and Development, Inc. (IDD), an award-winning information technology firm in Blacksburg. Under her leadership and guidance, IDD has created multimedia products, web design and development, interactive touch screen kiosks, and custom information technology solutions for a wide range of organizations, including many Fortune 500 companies. She has served on many boards and advisory committees, including Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering’s Committee of 100, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Advisory Board and the Dean’s Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for the Department of Computer Science, and the Virginia 4-H Foundation’s Board. She was inducted into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Academy of Excellence, joining an elite group of 97 individuals out of 55,000 living engineering alumni and was named the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumna. She was presented with the Business Woman of the Year Award in 2014, the RBTC Hall of Fame award in 2015 and has served as past President of the RBTC.

RBTC: What are some of the regional resources that have contributed to your success?

Mary Miller: Peer support has been a large part of my success. Connectivity has made this region strong and it is full of generous business leaders. I would say our human capital resources are the most valuable resources we have.

RBTC: What makes the Roanoke-Blacksburg region such a good fit for your company?

Mary Miller: Quality of life is a large factor. Lifestyle is important to me, as well as the people I employ. The more leisurely atmosphere of this region allows working parents to still have time with their families. Virginia Tech is also a great resource because we live in a region of “thinkers and doers” and all of these resources are accessible us. It is wonderful region to live and work.

RBTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow entrepreneur, what would it be?

Mary Miller: Get connected. Trying to go-it alone is a mistake. There are no roadblocks to keep you from getting connected in this region. Ask questions and listen. You can even learn from people that aren’t in your specific field. Growing a business has many more similarities than differences. It is easy to get connected in this region.

RBTC: What is one lesson you have learned over time that has made an impact on your business’ day-to-day operations?

Mary Miller: Get a banker, not just a bank, but also a banker. Start building a relationship with a banker, before you need their support. One thing I’ve learned over 25 years in business, is that you can’t stay in business if you run out of money. If you own a business you need a banker. I personally think community banks are the way to go, because they are vested in the communities they serve.

RBTC: How would you like to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region develop over the next 5 years?

Mary Miller: Transportation in and out of the region has always been a challenge, and even though we are making progress, there is more to do. I am pleased to see we will soon have increased access to rail. I frequently take the train from Lynchburg to DC. It will be fabulous to have the train come to Christiansburg, but we have more to do. Our daily flights from the region are limited and expensive. I know many creative, capable people are working on these issues and I am confident that we will continue to improve on the transportation front.

I have always been proud that the RBTC works across the region without regard to planning districts or town limits, and that is a real benefit to the region. We are maturing as an organization; with increased ability to support established companies and entrepreneurs alike. Progress is occurring at a faster pace and I believe the region is well positioned to leap forward. Regional success is more visible to the outside world, and our success is not in one sector. With our blend of companies aligned with university assets good things are going to continue to happen.
The region itself has a draw, and we hit both ends of the scale. New businesses are developing and we are ranked high on the list of best places to retire. I think a region that can support diverse needs wins. I strongly believe that the next five years are going to be exciting to watch. And, the next fifty years are going to be an excellent adventure for our region. I love this region.

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