Roanoke: A smart, shining star
By Mike Randle
I love Roanoke and I've loved it since I first visited in 1993. Roanoke certainly isn't rural, but it's not a big market, either. Situated against the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is as beautiful a place as any you will ever see in the South. The Roanoke region is a magnet for the creative class and downtown Roanoke is a vibrant place, filled with music, dining establishments, wonderful bars and an incredibly fast-growing residential migration. In fact, downtown Roanoke had the fourth-highest level of gentrification of all U.S. cities between 2000 and 2010, according to the Fordham Institute.
Of course, one of Roanoke's attractions is where it is located. Check out RoanokeOutside.com and you will find one of the premier spots anywhere for outdoor recreation. Whether it's hiking, biking, climbing or fishing in and around this valley between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountain ranges, the Roanoke region rocks for outdoor types.
But don't think that Roanoke is all about the soft side of economic development. Historically, this is a manufacturing region and that didn't happen by accident. For you manufacturing execs adding capacity, Roanoke has an abundance of water and treatment that can be essential to your production. . .all at costs well below the Virginia average. Current demand for water is only 43 percent of available daily supply of treated water.
The resources of the Roanoke region are perfect for the automotive industry and manufacturing sectors such as food processing that need a plentiful supply of high quality water. As for other targets, Roanoke uses its Virginia Tech research connection in every way possible and that has helped it become a biotechnology center.
Lastly, you cannot write about the Roanoke region and not mention its smarts. The region is the center of a larger area encompassing 21 institutions of higher education. Check this out: the Roanoke region has a higher concentration of undergraduates -- .108 per capita -- than that of Boston, San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill or Austin.