Wednesday, April 27, 2016

6 Alternatives to Silicon Valley With Better Weather Than Portland

6 Alternatives to Silicon Valley With Better Weather Than Portland A few weeks back I wrote about how, in recent years, Portland, Oregon has become a popular alternative to Silicon Valley. It’s attracting big companies like Google and giving the area the nickname “Silicon Forest.” However, as the article accumulated several thousand shares, it also sparked some outrage and backlash from people who live in the area, concerned about how Portland is “becoming the next San Francisco.” It’s true. There are issues that come with “San Francisco-ization,” as several people put it, including overpopulation and higher housing costs. At the same time, however, many Portland-area residents are excited to see the influx of tech talent. Something perhaps even more interesting occurred as well. People from other tech hubs across the country spoke out, saying something along the lines of, “If Portland doesn’t want the talent, we’ll take it.” People from Austin, LA, New York and Denver were represented as usual. But what really caught my attention were the folks from less-discussed tech hubs who claimed their locales are ideal for startups looking to plant roots. Here are just a few of these unsung startup tech cities. Roanoke, Virginia. I had to do some research when one guy on Twitter sang the praises of his native Roanoke. Turns out, with Virginia Tech only 45 minutes from the heart of the city, Roanoke is a natural fit for tech startups. As a business grows, it can choose from the large number of graduates who choose to settle in the city. Workers in the area have access to Roanoke’s low cost of living without sacrificing the many amenities in other cities, including culture, shops and restaurants. Related: The Ancient City of Jerusalem Is Seeing Rebirth as a Tech Hub San Diego, California. It seems odd to put the eighth largest city in the U.S. on this list, but San Diego generally hasn’t gotten as much attention in recent years from the biggest tech companies or startups looking to get off the ground. Those who do plant roots here though know that the environment is ideal, with nice weather year round and a heavy stream of tech talent flowing from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). While the cost of living is high compared to national averages, it is significantly lower than San Francisco’s current cost of living, which is often considered the highest in the country. San Diego is widely known as an epicenter of biotechnology research. It is also home to a large number of corporate headquarters, including tech companies Silicon Beach Software and Technology Integration Group. Provo, Utah. As one of the fastest-growing areas for tech jobs, Provo is seeing an influx of startups. Both Provo and Salt Lake City have seen greater dollar-per-deal investments from venture capitalists than many other cities, with Provo’s startups rivaling even San Francisco’s for investment amounts. Provo’s cost of living is only slightly higher than the national average, making it easily affordable for a tech company’s workers. Additionally, the city has been named as having the highest level of well-being of any city in the country. Related: The 4 Ingredients of Utah's Startup 'Secret Sauce' San Antonio, Texas. Like its higher-profile neighbor, Austin, San Antonio is attracting tech startups by the dozens, especially those in the biotechnology and cybersecurity fields. The area is popular due to its culture and history, making it a tourist destination as well as an ideal place for young workers. The city has seen a 15.7-percent increase in tech talent in recent years, with a population of more than 26,000 employed technology workers. You probably didn’t know it, but San Antonio is now the 7th largest city in the U.S., and it has a lower-than-average cost of living, as well. Related: 5 Emerging Tech Hubs From Around the World Nashville, Tennessee. With tech industry employment growth at a staggering 65.8 percent between 2001 and 2013, the Nashville area is becoming an unexpected tech leader. Part of this is due to the area’s tremendous growth in general. In fact, four of the area’s counties rank in the Top 100 fastest-growing in the country. One of the city’s biggest benefits is its low cost of living, which is 0.80 percent below the national average. Huntsville, Alabama. With 68.02 tech employees per 1,000 jobs, Huntsville has the talent new businesses need to accomplish their goals. The median rent in the area is far lower than cities like Seattle and San Jose, which has put it on many businesses’ radar in recent years. Much of the attention focuses on Cummings Research Park, which is one of the world’s leading science and technology business parks. The businesses located in the park include Fortune 500 companies AT&T, IBM, and Comcast. For businesses looking for an affordable alternative to Silicon Valley, one of the above six cities may be the right option. In addition to cost of living, businesses should consider the amount of tech talent in the area, even if they haven’t begun hiring yet. An area with a low cost of living, access to schools and amenities, and a bearable commute may also provide all the features employees need to begin working for a business and stay there for many years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Deschutes Brewery to Open East Coast brewery in Roanoke

Deschutes Brewery to open East Coast brewery in Roanoke ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on Tuesday that Deschutes Brewery will open an East Coast brewery in Roanoke. The $85 million investment will bring 108 new jobs to the Star City. As part of the deal, the commonwealth of Virginia gave $3 million to the city of Roanoke. Deschutes Brewery will be the 148th craft brewery in Virginia. Construction is set to begin in 2019, according to a press release from Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes expects to start shipping beer from the Roanoke location in about five years. The commonwealth was in a three-state competition with both North and South Carolina for the brewery. Christopher P. Morrill, the Roanoke city manager, said that the economic impact of Deschutes decision could reach more than $200 million dollars. Gary Fish, Deschutes’ founder and CEO, also spoke during the press conference. Learn more about Deschutes Brewery’s Roanoke location. Deschutes Brewery The yellow area is where the new Deschutes Brewery will be built. (Credit: Google Maps) Read the full press release from the governor’s office: Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Deschutes Brewery will invest $85 million to establish its Eastern U.S. brewery in the City of Roanoke. The Governor met with company officials at their headquarters in Oregon during his September 2015 West Coast Marketing Mission. Virginia successfully competed against North Carolina and South Carolina on the project, which will create 108 new jobs paying above the average prevailing wage in the region. Speaking at today’s event, Governor McAuliffe said, “Virginia’s competitive bid for Deschutes Brewery’s coveted East Coast location was tireless and aggressive, and we are gratified that the company has chosen the City of Roanoke for this major operation. This is another high-profile win that shines a spotlight on the Commonwealth and reinforces that we are a leading state in the craft beer industry. We are working to diversify and build a new Virginia economy, and I commend the teamwork involved in this great success. We are thrilled to welcome Deschutes Brewery to the Commonwealth.” “This project is a big win for the tourism, manufacturing and craft beverage industries in the Roanoke region and the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “Deschutes’ decision to locate its East Coast operation in Virginia is a strong testament to our outstanding talent, strategic location and superior business climate. We congratulate the City of Roanoke and the company, and we look forward to a long partnership.” “Deschutes Brewery’s selection of Roanoke for its East Coast operation helps solidify Virginia’s standing as a key player in the country’s growing craft beer industry, which saw sales increase by almost 19% in 2015,” said Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “Adding Deschutes to our world-class, award-winning roster of homegrown craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries will bring increased national attention to Virginia as the top East Coast destination for craft beverage lovers. In addition to the local jobs and revenue Deschutes will generate, their investment also will bring increased agri-tourism activity and additional production and market opportunities for Virginia’s agricultural community.” Named as OUTSIDE’s Best Places to Work in for the last three years in a row and winner of the 2015 Oregon Sustainability Award, Deschutes Brewery was founded in 1988 as a brew pub in Bend, Oregon. Still family and employee owned 28 years later, the brewery is known for brewing a diverse line-up of award winning beers including the popular Fresh Squeezed IPA, Black Butte Porter, and Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Deschutes Brewery now ships beer to 28 states, the District of Columbia, and around the world from its main brewing facility located on the banks of the Deschutes River. Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewery, said, “After visiting several amazing communities over the past two years, we are very excited to be heading to Roanoke. We love the region and everyone we’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with during this process has been incredible. We have absolutely been blown away with how the community rallied around bringing us here and has given us such a warm welcome. #Deschutes2Rke we’re on our way and proud to be able to now call Roanoke our second home.” The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Roanoke and the Roanoke Regional Partnership to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $3 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Roanoke with the project. The company is eligible to receive funding from the Economic Development Access Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The company will also be eligible to receive up to a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID), administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, depending on its procurement and use of Virginia grown products in its operations. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. “Roanoke is honored to be chosen as Deschutes Brewery’s East Coast location after a very thorough review of several communities in the Southeast,” said Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “It is a company with a strong culture of community engagement, recognized for its craftsmanship and will be a perfect fit for Roanoke’s vibrant outdoor lifestyle. We are thrilled to welcome Deschutes to Virginia’s Blue Ridge as we continue to build a more diverse, resilient economy.” “The Economic Development Authority is thrilled to support Deschutes Brewery in the decision to construct their East Coast manufacturing and distribution facility in the City of Roanoke,” said Charles Hunter II, Chair of the Economic Development Authority. “The EDA has a long history of working to recruit and retain businesses to this city, and we are excited to work with Deschutes as they invest in the community, create jobs, and put Roanoke on the map as a major beer tourism destination.” “We are very excited to welcome the new Deschutes Brewery location to Roanoke,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul. “Deschutes will be a fantastic addition to our economy and community, and our region’s outdoor offerings and friendly culture are a great match for the company. I am grateful to city and state officials as well as the many local citizens who showed Deschutes what a wonderful place the Roanoke Valley is to live, work, and play.” “This is great news for Roanoke,” said Senator John Edwards. “I commend Governor McAuliffe for his efforts in bringing a major brewery to our region, creating over 100 jobs and bringing an $85 million dollar capital investment. This shows the quality of life of this region as a major factor in attracting new industry.” Since the beginning of the McAuliffe administration, 630 economic development deals have been closed in Virginia with more than $10.68 billion in capital investment, which is more than any previous governor in the first 25 months in office.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Roanoke housing market doing well amid slowing rising mortgage rates

Roanoke housing market doing well amid slowing rising mortgage rates ROANOKE, Va. - Nationally, mortgage rates are slowly going up but that's not the case here in our region. Roanoke's real estate market is actually in what's called a neutral market right now. It's not a buyer's or a seller's market but thanks to growing consumer confidence and a high demand for homes, it could soon be good for sellers! "We're still around 4 percent interest rates, it's between 3 and ¾ and 4 and a quarter," Berkshire Hathaway broker, Tom Wilson, told Your Hometown News Leader. Good news for potential buyers and here in our region, the upward trend won't really affect the market. "The anticipation that I'm hearing is about another quarter of a point." The latest index says mortgage rates nationally could hit 5 percent, but locally the market is expected to flourish. "Price increases have been significantly higher in other areas than they have been here although the anticipation is we'll see about a 5 percent increase in prices by the end of this year." And with an abundance of homes to choose from, seller's could soon cash in. "I think we're heading more towards a seller's market maybe later this Spring. Listings are down, the number of listings are down, buyers are up." Realtors and brokers say the Roanoke Valley is unique because it tends to buck potentially unstable housing trends. "Our economy here is basically based on medical, retail, banking and insurance `and those are more stable. We don't see the huge swings up or the huge swings down," said Wilson. Encouraging news for what Wilson says is sure to be a good year for the market as a whole.

Broadband authority OK's rates, to sign up first customers soon

Broadband authority OK's rates, to sign up first customers soon The Roanoke area's public broadband utility expects to sign up its first customers in April now that it has set the rates for a 47-mile fiber network. The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority's board unanimously approved several sets of rates Friday for an anticipated fiber network that will mostly run through Roanoke and Salem. Several entities operating in business, education and government have agreed to become users of the network, but contract negotiations couldn't begin until the rates got approved, said authority Executive Director Frank Smith, who declined to disclose the tentative customers. Among the packages are a "transport" and Internet service plan with monthly rates ranging from $550 for 10 megabits per second to $5,687 for 1 gigabit per second. The utility's pricing differs considerably from the more familiar Internet plans to the home because the broadband authority's customers are buying bandwidth they won't have to share with other paying parties. This exclusive access to bandwidth - ideal for institutions moving large loads of data - allows for much faster transfer of data. Another package will allow customers to lease what is called dark fiber for rates ranging from $21 to $100 a month. Under this plan, customers would be responsible for installing the electronics needed to turn on and make their piece of the fiber usable. The exact dark fiber rates depend on whether the customer is a commercial carrier or nonprofit, how long they plan to lease the fiber and how much of the nearly 50-mile network they want access to. Smith said 25 percent of the network is dark fiber to be leased. While the broadband authority has maintained that it's not directly selling service to the home, Smith said the utility's tentative customers do include telecom companies that could turn around and provide Internet to the end user. A non-Internet package that offers bandwidth just for transporting data also exists, with monthly rates ranging from $350 for 10 megabits per second to $4,510 for 1 gigabit per second. This transport service is similar to the dark fiber plan, but tasks the broadband authority to handle the electronics. Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess, the broadband authority's board chairman, said he's pleased with the pricing. "It's another step forward," he said. With construction starting last summer, the broadband authority plans to turn the network on before May, Smith said. The entire 47-mile network is being financed with a $6.2 million bond that the cities of Roanoke and Salem have each agreed to start repaying until the project starts generating enough business. Proponents of the project expect the network to help improve economic activities in the Roanoke area and allow the valley to better compete with other metro areas in the Southeast when trying to attract employers. The project is also among the efforts to improve connectivity in the Roanoke area, which has a poor state and national standing based on several industry studies.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Botetourt County's 350 industrial jobs deal largest for Roanoke Valley since before recession

Botetourt County's 350 industrial jobs deal largest for Roanoke Valley since before recession Gov. Terry McAuliffe (left) welcomes Pasquale Forte, president & CEO of Eldor Corp., and Luca Forte, a board member at Eldor, on Tuesday. DALEVILLE — An Italian-based global auto parts manufacturer will build its first North American production plant in Botetourt County, investing $75 million and creating up to 350 new jobs over the next five years, officials announced Tuesday. Plans by Eldor Corp. to locate in the Botetourt Center at Greenfield industrial park marked the biggest economic news in the county’s history, and the largest expansion of new manufacturing jobs in the Roanoke Valley since before the Great Recession. “This is a huge announcement for us,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a crowd of state and local officials gathered Tuesday afternoon at Greenfield. The Roanoke Regional Partnership estimates Eldor will have an annual economic impact of $246.5 million and help create more than 500 secondary jobs across Botetourt and the entire Roanoke region by 2021. And if long-term projections hold true, another 300 people will find work at Eldor by 2024, adding significant horsepower to what is already an established automotive parts manufacturing cluster in Botetourt County. “The fact that another global leader in the transportation industry has selected Botetourt County sends a positive message about the future of this county and jobs that will help us attract and retain young people,” County Administrator Gary Larrowe said. Eldor is expected to begin construction shortly on a 250,000-square-foot facility that will sit on 53 acres in the sprawling Greenfield industrial park located off U.S. 220 in Daleville. The project should be completed by August 2017. Workers will earn an average annual wage of at least $37,950, which Eldor has promised as part of a performance agreement under which it will receive about $15 million in state and local incentives if it fulfills its obligations. A privately held company founded in 1972, Eldor has existing plants in Italy, Turkey, China and Brazil. It makes ignition systems, engine control units and electronic systems for hybrid and electric vehicles. The company, which cites $300 million in annual revenues, has three research and development centers in Italy and is based in Orsenigo, located north of Milan in northern Italy near the Swiss border. The company considered about 200 sites in 20 states before settling on Botetourt, McAuliffe said. Eldor President and CEO Pasquale Forte said he found Virginia attractive for its pro-business polices and port access, and the Roanoke Valley equally appealing for its quality of life and natural beauty. “I am confident that people who come to our plant from around the world will be amazed by this beauty,” said Forte, who also cited the region’s universities and a community college system with a mechatronics program that is well suited to train the workers who will run the company’s advanced production lines. The long-term impact of the project at build-out is estimated at $457 million with 1,600 direct, indirect and induced jobs, according to economic impact modeling by the Roanoke Regional Partnership. The governor has approved a $3.2 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to Botetourt County to assist with the project. In addition, the company will receive state benefits from the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Program and money and assistance for employee training. The county’s incentive package with the company — valued at about $12 million — is based on the plant growing to 650 jobs and an investment of $106 million by 2024. The county is offering the 53-acre site, fee waivers and utility extensions, tax incentives and a performance-based grant of $1.3 million. Shortly after the project was announced at a 3 p.m. news conference, the county’s board of supervisors and economic development authority approved the performance agreement. The arrangement offers protection to the county should the deal not go through, doling out payments of grant money only after certain milestones are met by Eldor, such as the beginning of grading, the granting of a certificate of occupancy for the building and the hiring of its first employees. In addition, Eldor has agreed to provide a $1.5 million letter of credit to the county. Eldor is a “strong company,” Larrowe said, and Botetourt officials have no reason to believe it will not live up to expectations. “This is just doing business, that’s the only thing it is,” Larrowe said. At the state level, officials with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership also took extra pains to review the company’s background, partly because of a failed economic development deal in Appomattox in which they acknowledge a Chinese company was not adequately vetted. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones said officials examined audited financial statements and relied on information from independent parties, in addition to what was provided by the company. The Greenfield complex is largely vacant, and Tuesday’s announcement was clearly a relief to county officials who have been courting possible tenants for years. The site of the future Eldor plant is adjacent to a Greenfield parcel slated for the construction of a 100,000-square foot industrial shell building, to be financed by the nonprofit Greater Roanoke Valley Development Foundation. Construction of the building, which county officials hope will lure a new industry to the park sometime in the future, is expected to take about 18 months. Two historic slave buildings that were once part of the Greenfield Plantation were recently relocated to make way for the shell building, much to the dismay of preservationists and others in the county. County officials said their courting of Eldor, which first looked at the adjacent site last summer, was not a factor in the buildings’ relocation. When it began considering Greenfield as a possible location, Eldor was interested in moving at a faster pace than what the shell building site offered. County officials say a certified, pad-ready site nearby was crucial to landing the company. “The fact that Botetourt County had a pre-graded site appealed to Eldor because it will reduce construction costs and increase the speed to market,” supervisors Chairman Jack Leffel said. To seal the deal, the General Assembly recently added another $1 million to the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and authorized the governor to give up to $1.5 million for additional grading of the site. In his remarks Tuesday, McAuliffe praised Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt County, for his work in securing the budget amendment “to get this deal over the goal line.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Greater Raleigh Court Civic League Candidates' Forum

Last night was the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League Candidates' Forum, which is the unofficial beginning of the municipal elections held on May 1st. I had a great time discussing council accomplishments, my vision going forward and policies affecting taxpayers in Roanoke.

To view the Roanoke Times article on the forum, please visit

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vote Tomorrow

Please vote tomorrow at William Fleming High School anytime between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Support stability and continuity in Roanoke government.

Also, please encourage others to join you.