February 2020

Farmburguesa Opens in the Grandin Village
Surrounded by Farmburguesa family and friends, Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea and Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd cut the ribbon at the January 17th Grand Opening & Ribbon-Cutting of Farmburguesa along with co-owners Kat Pascal and Jimmy Delgado.
Farmburguesa is open in the City of Roanoke! 

After months spent seeking a Roanoke location, owners Jimmy Delgado (pictured left), Kat Pascal and their family were introduced to the former Norberto’s Restaurant space located at 1908 Memorial Avenue. The building had previously been gutted, making it attractive for prospective tenants and a customized build out.

Having opened their first business in Roanoke, Kat and Jimmy were familiar with the location. Spotless America, their commercial cleaning business is housed in the Roanoke Colab located just around the corner on Grandin Road. Following the success of Spotless America, the couple opened the original Farmburguesa, a small, quaint spot with seats for about 12 people in Vinton in 2018. They wanted to give customers a taste of their South American burger cuisine. People quickly fell in love with their gourmet burgers, and began petitioning the couple to expand in the popular Grandin Village. 

The new 1,400 square foot restaurant has seating for 34 and employs 8 full-time workers. It features an open kitchen concept offering 8 gourmet burgers, 4 beers on tap, wine and soft drinks. New to the restaurant is a special brew from Big Lick Brewery, LULO Extract, created from a popular Colombian fruit and made especially for Farmburguesa,

Kat and Jimmy go to great lengths to source as many ingredients as possible using growers and businesses in the Roanoke Region and New River Valley...from spices to tomatoes to beef. They also contract with many local vendors for the professional services required for operating Farmburguesa and Spotless America.

In addition to raising their two boys and running three businesses, Kat and Jimmy support many area non-profits in the community, and participate on numerous boards including Blue Ridge Literacy and Roanoke City Schools Central PTA.

We wish them the very best of luck in this new location.  Farmburguesa is open daily from
11 am – 9 pm. Learn more about the restaurant by visiting www.farmburguesa.com.
Clarkston Technology Solutions Grows Investment in Roanoke with
Purchase of Historic Building
Technology development leader Clarkston Technology Solutions recently finalized the acquisition of a new office space at 502 5th Street in downtown Roanoke.

The building, home to several commercial businesses since its construction in 1951, will serve as the new headquarters for Clarkston Technology Solutions, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based business and technology consulting firm, Clarkston Consulting. “Our vision is to make significant renovations to an aging and built-for-purpose commercial building in order to transform into a space that will be the envy of any technology professional in Roanoke, the Virginia commonwealth, and beyond,” said Clarkston Technology Solution Managing Partner Jeff Graffeo.

The acquisition of the new space furthers Clarkston Technology Solutions’ investment in the Roanoke area. With the expanded footprint, the business will increase its headcount to include over 100 technologists, developers, and coding professionals. “We are fortunate to continue our growth but even more so, to contribute to the local Roanoke economy. We look forward to continuously expanding our commitment to the area and giving back to the city that has helped us succeed and grow in the short time since our founding,” said Graffeo.

Businesses across the life sciences, consumer products, and retail industries partner with Clarkston Consulting to enhance strategic decision-making, improve operational efficiency, implement new technologies, and promote business growth and market diversification. For more information, visit www.clarkstontech.com.
Matthew Huff Named President of Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group 
Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group is pleased to announce the promotion of Matt Huff, CCIM as the company's new President. Mr. Huff previously served as the Executive Vice President/COO of Poe & Cronk with the responsibility of leading the firm's team of real estate professionals while developing new business relationships. The results played a significant role in 2019 being the best performing year in the 32-year history of the firm.

Mr. Huff succeeds Dennis Cronk who will serve as the company's Chairman/CEO providing input into the strategic objectives of the firm. Both Matt and Dennis will continue to advise their clients by providing the highest level of service and performance in commercial real estate.

Matt joined Poe & Cronk in 2008 and, in 2015, became the firm's Executive Vice President/ COO as well as a Principal and Shareholder of Poe & Cronk.

As President, Matt will be responsible for executing the firm's strategic vision while providing leadership and oversite for the firm's rapidly expanding business groups supporting Commercial Sales, Leasing, Property Management and Facility Management.

"Matt is a thoughtful, dynamic leader with vast experience and success in the business of commercial real estate. As a recognized community leader, top producer, and someone we all trust, this makes him the perfect individual to lead the firm into the future," according to Dennis Cronk.
Speakers Announced for Talent Solutions Summit
to be held in March
Attract, recruit, and engage workers.

These are things every business needs to do, and the  Talent Solutions Summit  on March 25 in Roanoke, VA, will give you the tools to put your words into action.

The slate of regional and national speakers includes:
Virginia Tech Executive Associate Athletic Director  John Ballein  says recruiting top talent is a lot like finding the best Division I athletes. He’ll share his recruiting secrets.
Mirna Valerio , (aka The Mirnavator) a well-known ultrarunner and writer will help you create a workplace that doesn’t use diversity as a buzzword but truly embraces it so that you can attract and engage top employees no matter their background.
Professional consultant  Marisa Keegan of Bonfire, will link employee engagement to your bottom line and company growth.
This one day conference is designed for everyone from CEOs to hiring managers to human resources professionals to anyone in a director or supervisory role.

Every conference participant will leave with a “Playbook” for success, including tools and resources to help your business or team be successful in today's competitive employment market.

Registration is open for the summit on March 25 at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.

This event is being organized by the Roanoke Regional Partnership and is supported by funds provided by GO Virginia , a bipartisan, business-led economic development initiative that is changing the way Virginia’s diverse regions collaborate on economic and workforce development activities.
Spotlight on Business
Still Water Floatation, the region's only deprivation float tank center, opened its doors in October, 2019 in the City of Roanoke. 

The idea was born 3 years prior as David Landes, co-owner and founder of the center, traveled the west coast and discovered the beauties and wonders of floating. An entrepreneur at heart with a desire to bring something of value to the community, this seemed like a perfect project to take on. David later introduced the idea to his now business partner Tabby Cain who, after trying a float herself, signed on and the lengthy process of opening a four room float center in the heart of Old Southwest Roanoke began. 
While new to the area, floating has been around since the 1950’s. Over the past decade, as research on the benefits of floating and the desire to supplement traditional Western medicine models have grown, so too has the floating industry and it’s global reach. 
The process of floating is a relatively simple one. You enter the float room and take a shower (you have a choice of a cabin style room or a pod). The tank contains over 1000 pounds of Epsom salt and a foot of water. You, the water, and the room are relatively the same temperature so once you get settled into the water, it can be hard to tell where you stop and the water begins. The water is more dense than the Dead Sea, so you float on the water effortlessly and without pressure points to cause you discomfort. The process, as intended (complete darkness and silence) also shuts off centers of your brain that do not often get a break, helping you to find relaxation and a sense of calm you might not be used to experiencing. There are light and sound options so you can ease yourself into complete deprivation and have total control over your environment. After your 90 minute float is complete, you take another shower and spend time relaxing in the Still Water lounge with a cup of tea. 
People from all walks of life find benefits from floating. Anyone with muscle or joint ailments find physical relief. Athletes enjoy quicker recovery from the breaking down of lactic acids in their muscles. People with PTSD, anxiety, and depression find reductions in their stress levels during and for hours after their floats. And folks that are interested in mediation and being able to go deeper inside themselves find a great place to work on themselves as well. The list goes on as does the additional benefits being discovered through ongoing research from scientists like Justin Feinstein of the Laureate Institute of Brain Research. 
Owners David and Tabby have created a calm, safe, and clean environment for people to visit. From the water-like floors, to the dry-stacked stone walls in the lounge, to the crisp clean float rooms, great thought was put into creating a space oriented around the user experience. Everything you need to float has been provided for you as well. Your towels, soaps and shampoos, ear plugs and even your cup of tea to sip following your float. The only thing you might need to bring are your personal toiletries to help you prepare to go back into the world (not that you’ll be in a rush to do that).

If you are concerned about being claustrophobic, David and Tabby have addressed that too. They offer two cabin style float rooms offering a tub-style entrance with doors and ceilings high enough for clients to stand and not be overwhelmed.  
Located at 1309 3rd Street in Roanoke, Still Water Floatation is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am - 9 pm and offers something for everyone from relaxation to healing to pain relief. We hope you will find the opportunity soon to try one of the newest wellness businesses to the Roanoke Valley.  To learn more, visit https://www.stillwaterfloatation.com .
Fralin Biomedical Research Institute scientists shed light on surprising visual development patterns
Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC scientists discovered that retinal cells recruit astrocytes to facilitate growth in visual processing brain regions. The research team included Ubadah Sabbagh, Rachana Somaiya, Jianmin Su, and Michael Fox, pictured above.
Long before a baby opens its eyes for the first time, the brain is ready to start decoding visual stimuli.

In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC neuroscientists reveal a surprising clue about how this intricate visual processing system forms during early brain development.

It starts with retinal cell growth. These cells line the back of the eye and process and transmit light-derived signals along their axons, which make up the optic nerve. The axons grow from the eye to various brain regions, including a visual processing region of the brain’s thalamus called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN).

Previous studies show that signals from retinal cell influence the LGN’s cellular and molecular structure. But this new research describes how retinal cells recruit star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes to facilitate inhibitory neuron growth into the LGN.

Inhibitory neurons play crucial roles in refining visual processing, but their development in the LGN is not yet well understood.

Led by co-authors Michael Fox, professor and director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC’s Center for Neurobiology Research, and William Guido, chair of the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, the research team started with a broad question: What happens to the LGN if retinal inputs never develop?

The scientists used transcriptomic profiling to compare changes in ordinary mice and mice lacking retinal connections.

The latter group had lower levels of an essential growth protein, called fibroblast growth factor 15, which is secreted by astrocytes. The scientists also noticed stark changes in the LGN’s cellular composition – the mice without retinal inputs also lacked inhibitory interneurons, which ordinarily migrate over long distances into the LGN during development.

This discovery shows for the first time that without retinal inputs, astrocytes do not secrete the growth protein and, in turn, inhibitory interneurons do not grow into the LGN.

Previous studies have described how astrocytes, the brain’s most abundant type of cell, have numerous functions – from regulating electrical impulses to providing nutritional and immune support.

“Astrocytes are a hot topic in neuroscience right now, and although a lot of scientists are researching them, not many people have looked at how these cells are implicated during development of the visual thalamus,” said Fox, who is also a biological sciences professor in Virginia Tech’s College of Science.
Fox said that these findings open up even more questions, including how retinal ganglion cells signal astrocytes in the first place.

One possibility is that astrocytes pick up glutamate signals released by retinal cells during neurotransmission. Alternatively, retinal ganglion cells are known to create and secrete bio-active factors that could signal astrocytes independently from neural activity. Fox’s team is starting to examine and test these possibilities.

The paper’s first authors are Jianmin Su, research assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, and Naomi Charalambakis, who was a graduate student in the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine at the time of the study. Other scientists who participated in the research include Ubadah Sabbagh and Rachana Somaiya, Virginia Tech translational biology, medicine, and health (TBMH) graduate students, and Aboozar Monaverfeshani, who completed his TBMH doctoral degree during this study.

This study was supported by the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Virginia's Blue Ridge lodging industry experienced it's 10th consecutive year of record growth! According to STR, Inc., 2019 hotel room revenue increased 3.7% over 2018 ending the year just over $116 million. Hotel room demand also increased 1.1% reaching 1.3 million rooms sold. Demand 360, a new source for data, indicated overall group rooms were up 4.8% compared to 2018.
“The tourism economy for Virginia's Blue Ridge continues to have steady growth creating more jobs and more tax revenues,” said Landon Howard, President of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “It's all about regional collaboration generating a greater return on investment for our 1,500+ partners and the localities we represent including the Cities of Roanoke and Salem and the Counties of Roanoke, Franklin and Botetourt."
Passenger Traffic Continues to Increase at
Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport
December traffic was up 17.7% at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport as 2019 continues a trend of strong traffic growth.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport continued to see 2019 traffic increase with December traffic up 17.7% on a year over year basis. December 2019 saw 61,827 passengers fly via ROA compared to 52,498 in December 2018, an increase of 9,329 passengers or 8.9%. A total of 719,707 passengers were served in 2019 vs. 660,836 in 2018.

Continued community support, additional capacity, fare moderation and improved airline operational reliability have all played roles in the sustained passenger growth, which began in September 2016. For 2019, traffic was up an average of 161 passengers a day versus 2018.

“We are pleased to see this positive trend continue through 2019, especially given our strong traffic numbers in 2016, 2017, and 2018,” stated Timothy T. Bradshaw, A.A.E., executive director of the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission. “Passenger demand is a critical factor when speaking with airlines regarding improving and increasing air service to our region. Our carriers have added capacity at ROA and our customers have utilized it, which has led to carriers adding more capacity and hopefully new destinations. Robust air service is a critical component for economic growth in the region. Using our existing air service is the only way we will get more air service. We appreciate the support of our community choosing to fly ROA and not driving out of market to fly.”

The Airport Commission continually works with the airlines to improve reliability, reduce airfare and upgrade equipment serving the Roanoke Region. This has played a significant role in the increase of passengers using the airport. The commission continues to invest resources to promote the services available at ROA and sincerely thanks our customers for choosing to fly ROA.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport is the primary airport for Virginia’s Blue Ridge and the New River Valley. ROA serves over 710,000 passengers per year via 4 airlines (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Allegiant Air) with nonstop service to 6 hub cities (Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, New York LaGuardia, Philadelphia, and Washington Dulles) as well as weekly flights to Orlando Sanford International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

To learn more, please visit www.flyroa.com .  

World Renowned Budweiser Clydesdales to Appear at
The Freedom First St. Patrick's Day Parade

P.A. Short Distributing and Downtown Roanoke, Inc. are excited to announce the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, the symbol of quality and tradition for Anheuser-Busch since 1933, are scheduled to appear in the annual Freedom First St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Shamrock Festival to be held on March 14 in Downtown Roanoke.

The eight-horses will be harnessed and hitched to the famous red beer wagon for the annual parade that begins at 11:00 am. These “Gentle Giants,” as they are often referred to, will guide the beer wagon on the parade route traveling down Jefferson Street to Campbell Avenue, ending at Williamson Road.

The Clydesdale’s appearance in Roanoke is one of hundreds made annually by the traveling hitches. Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to America in the mid-1800’s. Today, the giant draft horses are used primarily for breeding and show. Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be at least three years of age, stand approximately 18 hands – or six feet – at the shoulder, and weigh an average of 2,000 pounds. In addition, these horses must be bay in color, have four white legs, and a blaze of white on the face and black mane and tail. A gentle temperament is very important as hitch horses meet millions of people each year. A single Clydesdale hitch horse will consume as much as 20-25 quarts of feed, 40-50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.
Carilion Clinic contributed more than $3.2 billion and nearly 24,000 jobs to Virginia’s economy in 2018, according to an economic impact study recently released by Carilion and The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Center for Economic and Policy Studies.

The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service  provides policy analysis, economic forecasting, regional studies, and other services. This study, the first commissioned by Carilion, analyzed data from Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, Carilion’s fiscal year, including spending and employment growth of the Carilion Clinic system independent of its partnerships with Virginia Tech and Radford University.

Findings point to continued growth of Carilion’s employee base, payroll, and investments in local business. There is also a ripple effect as a growing number of employees and their families purchase goods and services. Taking these factors into consideration, the study finds that for every ten Carilion jobs, another eight jobs are created in the Commonwealth.

Check out the full study by clicking the BizLink above.


Creating a Personal Brand
This month, we’ll place the focus on ourselves. What is a personal brand? Do you need one?  Well, whether you know it or not, you already DO have a personal brand! Your goal should be to ensure that brand is consistent and intentional.

There are five areas in any personal brand. When you are sending the same message in all five areas, you are consistent. When you are sending the same message in all five areas that you meant to send, you are intentional.

Let’s look at the five areas of a personal brand.

Area 1: Environment
Your environment consists of the area around you over which you have some control, including your home, car, and office. Is your home welcoming or is it messy? Organized or cluttered? Is your car sporty and reliable? Does it have a lot of stickers? Is it colorful? Typically, these areas tend to have the same “vibe” that others pick up on. Yes, we all have our busy and messy times, but if you are in a normal period, how would you describe your environment and are you consistent across environments?

Area 2: Electronic
What is your personal email? Think Lesa.Hanlin@microsoft.com vs. ready4sun@hotmail.com . What does your headshot look like? Is it professional or casual? What is the first impression it gives and is that your intention? People will google you. Google yourself! What are your social media settings? 

Area 3: Auditory
Your voice is an area of personal branding that is easily overlooked. Be aware of the tone of voice you use by default. Do you fill your speech with sarcasm or over use words such as like, um, you know, right, or whatever? Do you speak quietly or passionately? Or too loudly?

Area 4: Print
While this area is often underutilized, be sure business cards, stationery and the like are also speaking to the brand you wish to create. 

Area 5: Physical
Overall are you neat and clean? Are your clothes ironed? Do you make an effort to look professional every day? How do you go to the grocery store? Yes! What you do and how you carry yourself after hours are part of your brand too!

Personal branding is an active process. It’s the message, intentional or unintentional, that you are sending to the world. For your career and personal success, devote the time to the five branding areas, make adjustments to be more intentional, and create a consistent, powerful personal brand for yourself. You’ll be glad you made the investment!

Business Bits is brought to you by Lesa Hanlin ( Lesa@vt.edu ), Virginia Tech, Executive Director, Roanoke Regional Initiatives (540-767-6100).
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City Owned Available Property
The City of Roanoke has a variety of properties available for acquisition, including existing buildings (as available) and buildable sites. Proposals for these properties must be approved by Council and must be submitted to the City of Roanoke Department of Economic Development. 

For more information on available properties and the proposal process, please visit the links below:

Training & Events
Upcoming Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture
The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series brings nationally renowned experts to Roanoke. The free public lectures are open to members of the general public as well as to Virginia Tech and Carilion faculty, students, and staff.

When:  Thursday, Febr uary 27, 2020, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The David Dolby Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry
University of California San Francisco
Founder and Executive Director, Neuroscape
Where: Fralin Biomedical Research Institute
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016