July 2020

New Jobs Coming to City of Roanoke and Virginia

The Roanoke Region is benefitting from a major corporate decision by ASGN Incorporated which will create 700 jobs across Virginia and relocate its corporate headquarters from Calabasas, California to Henrico County. ASGN subsidiary Apex Systems will add 74 jobs to its offices in the City of Roanoke at an average annual salary of $103,894.

ASGN, a leading provider of IT and professional consulting services in technology, digital, creative, engineering, and life sciences fields across commercial and government sectors, is ranked 698th on the Fortune 1000 list.

The company helps clients develop, implement, and operate critical IT and business solutions through its integrated offering of professional staffing and IT solutions. The new 700 jobs will be in Henrico County (121), Virginia Beach (147) and other communities in the Commonwealth in addition to Roanoke.  Apex Systems  employs approximately 4,000 workers nationwide.

“We are thrilled ASGN Inc. has chosen to expand its operations here in Roanoke,” said City of Roanoke Mayor Sherman P. Lea, Sr. “Its subsidiary, Apex Systems, has been a great corporate citizen in Roanoke for many years in our downtown. The 74 new jobs created by this expansion will certainly have a positive impact on our economic development efforts and enhance the vibrancy of Roanoke.”

Apex Systems is located at 10 Franklin Road in Downtown Roanoke.
Spotlight on Business
Charles Schwab Opens Independent Branch in Roanoke
A new Roanoke independent financial services branch is now fully available for virtual investment help and guidance!

Charles Schwab, one of the largest full-service investment services firms in the country, has opened an office in Roanoke and is available to provide investors with local access to a range of modern investing, wealth management and personal finance guidance and services that combine the best of what people and technology can provide.

The Roanoke branch is led by Schwab Independent Branch Leader Kevin McFarland, a financial services professional with more than 24 years of industry experience. Prior to joining Schwab’s independent branch network, McFarland was a financial advisor in Falls Church, VA.

“Given the current environment, people have a lot of questions about how to approach their finances and investments, so it’s more important than ever to make help and guidance accessible in Roanoke, said McFarland. Although we are temporarily unable to meet with clients in person due to COVID-19, we remain focused on Schwab’s commitment to be an advocate for the individual investor and to provide them with the help and resources they need.”

The new Roanoke location at 2219 Colonial Avenue on the upper level of Towers Shopping Center is part of a larger franchising initiative Schwab announced in early 2011. Schwab’s decision to begin opening franchise branches, in addition to its more than 300 existing company-managed branches, is grounded on a commitment to make financial advice and planning more accessible in local communities across the country. Schwab’s company-managed and independent branches deliver the same suite of brokerage products and services, pricing, and overall client service and experience. The Roanoke branch will serve all communities in the Roanoke Region and surrounding areas.

As a result of the recent pandemic and Schwab’s commitment to the health and well-being of its representatives, personnel, clients and the community, the Roanoke branch recommends clients and non-clients contact the branch directly for virtual assistance and for information on in-person access. Schwab clients can also engage with the firm through it’s website at  www.schwab.com , online chat, and the Schwab mobile app.

Once the Roanoke branch reopens for public access, McFarland expects to hold a range of complimentary educational investing workshops, available to Schwab clients as well as the general public.

For more information, contact Kevin McFarland, Roanoke Branch Leader at 540-682-7850 or visit www.aboutschwab.com . You may also follow Schwab on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Hughes Associates Architects and Engineers recently announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Mike Woolwine as President of the firm effective March 10, 2020. Mike succeeds Martha Chester who retired from HAA&E in June 2020, but will remain as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. 

Mike Woolwine has been a Vice President and member of the board of directors for 11 years. 

As President, he will focus on managing the direction for the company, including short and long-term goals; and most importantly, ensure that the firm continues to provide exemplary service and successful projects for all clients.

To learn more about Hughes Associates Architects & Engineers, visit the website by clicking here .
Preparing to Reopen
Mask-Friendly Businesses

Planning the reopening of your business soon? If so, you may wish to download one of the graphics to the left provided by the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC)...feel free to print the graphics and hang them in your storefront window!
The SBDC also recently held a presentation regarding safely reopening businesses while adhering to social distancing and other health and safety guidelines . View this presentation below.

Patrick Calhoun (left) a postdoctoral associate and his mentor James Smyth, an associate professor at the
Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.
Fralin Biomedical Research Institute scientists’ research confirms virus attacks the heart’s electrical system
Virginia Tech researchers studying how a usually benign virus attacks the human heart with sometimes fatal consequences determined that the virus disrupts the heart’s electrical system – and with dual impacts not previously recognized.

Patrick Calhoun, a postdoctoral associate, and his mentor,  James Smyth, an associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC , found that adenovirus not only uncouples electrical signaling pathways in the heart, but it also impairs the cells’ ability to make new communication channels. 

Researchers made their findings via first-of-their-kind experiments to observe adenovirus effects on human heart cells in a culture dish.

“This is the first time we’re putting this human virus on human heart cells to see what it does in the context of infected heart muscle cells,” Smyth said. “That’s the real power of this.”

The study was published June 2 in  The FASEB Journal , an international publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 

The discovery may increase understanding of arrhythmias, which are problems of the heart’s electrical signaling that can lead to arrest of the heart’s coordinated beating and even sudden cardiac death. The research in the Smyth laboratory focuses on ventricular arrhythmia that are potentially the most dangerous, but such electrical disturbances can affect all chambers of the heart. Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, affects more than 2 million people in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Heart muscle cells communicate with each other via channels called gap junctions. Formed by proteins called connexins, gap junctions create a bridge between two cells for sharing electrical signals that enable heart muscle cells to beat in concert – but gap junctions can also alert neighboring cells they are under attack by a virus. 

Previous work in Smyth’s lab found that acute infections caused by adenovirus reduced levels of a key gap junction protein, connexin43.

Adenovirus, which typically can cause a common cold, has a far more dangerous impact if it reaches the heart. When the virus commandeers gap junctions, it can slow production of connexin43, disturbing the electrical system that keeps a heart beating properly, leading to arrhythmias and sometimes sudden cardiac death.

Calhoun performed specific experiments that confirmed that the virus can effectively hijack the system that heart muscle cells use to communicate. Similar research is often performed using mouse models, but previously scientists lacked an effective model for adenovirus and the human heart.

Calhoun innovated a diagnostic technique using induced pluripotent stem cell derived-cardiomyocytes – human skin cells converted to heart cells. He applied adenovirus to those and watched what happened.

He saw what he expected – the virus took over the gap junctions for its own replication purposes – but he saw something else he didn’t expect.

“I realized there were two distinct processes going on here, with the virus giving a double hit to the cell’s ability to communicate with its neighbors” Calhoun said. “Firstly, it was rapidly closing existing channels, and secondly it was shutting down the cells’ ability to make new ones.”

Smyth and Calhoun took particular interest in how the virus halted connexin43 creation and gap junction formation. The virus switched a protein pathway classically described as making new connexin to suppressing connexin instead. Smyth sees promise in learning more about how the virus made that change.

“We might learn something very new about the molecular biology there that’s causing that switch,” said Smyth, who is also an associate professor of biological sciences in the  Virginia Tech College of Science  and of basic science education in the  Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine .

“The research has some limitations for extending the findings to the living heart because it’s done in vitro – in a dish outside of the human body – but still has tremendous value,” Smyth said. Fundamental studies provide the footing for the translational research that discovers therapeutics and diagnostic methods that improve people’s health.”

“They give us pointers and clues as to what to look for,” Smyth said. 

“This research goes beyond viral infection with the hope that we can generate new therapeutic interventions for diseased hearts,” Calhoun said. “We’re essentially learning from adenovirus to find the most efficient ways to stop, rather than cause, arrhythmias.”

Calhoun’s research formed a significant part of his recently defended doctoral dissertation. It’s complemented by the work of Rachel Padget, another researcher in Smyth’s lab who was recently awarded a  National Institutes of Health fellowship  to develop a first-ever mouse model to investigate how adenovirus attacks the heart.

Calhoun, originally from Niceville, FL, has been mentored by Smyth for more than five years. A U.S. Army veteran, Calhoun began his academic career at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, VAbefore transferring to Virginia Tech.

This month he’ll begin work as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD where he’ll continue his study of cardiac health.

Smyth, an investigator in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s  Center for Heart and Reparative Medicine Research , is the senior author on the paper. Calhoun’s research was funded by an American Heart Association grant awarded in 2018.
Announcing Virginia's Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge knows safety should be part of the experience for visitors, businesses, and local residents in the surrounding VBR region. As we continue to work together to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to join our Virginia's Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge as a commitment to keep each other safe and healthy.

The pledge follows recommended guidelines from the CDC and public health officials, and helps us create an environment of safety while we enjoy the businesses and experiences that make Virginia's Blue Ridge a special place. 

We've made the pledge available in a variety of formats and resources that you can use for your own purposes. This should be an easy tool to use and provide consistent messaging for the region. Start using the  Stay Safe Pledge Toolkit
You can simply Download, Print and Post on your door or Post on your Website and Social Media. 

We encourage all businesses and individuals to commit to the  Virginia's Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge  as a way to work together to ensure the health and safety of our community.
Featured BizLink
  Recovery Resources for Small Businesses 
As businesses begin to look at reopening and/or planning to transition to the 'new normal,' there are a number of factors to consider and decisions to be made. The Virginia Small Business Development Center has launched this website sharing Recovery Resources for Small Businesses. 

Becoming an Inclusive Leader

We are entering Phase 3 of reopening in Virginia and with that, there is yet another new set of guidelines to be conscious of as we move forward. Along with the new reopening phases, our society is phasing out a long-outdated mindset and working toward becoming what we should have been all along – aware, accepting and engaged in positive change.

Diversity in the workplace is a gift of differing skills and ideas, stemming from the variety of races, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and life experiences. So how do you make sure your leadership style embraces diversity and establishes an inclusive model for those you work with?

Research by Harvard Business Review on inclusive leadership found that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70 percent difference on whether an individual feels included or not. Taking the time to acknowledge the current climate of our world as it pertains to diversity and inclusion opens the door to becoming cognizant of what your workplace is doing correctly and where it can improve. Read, do your own research and listen to those around you. Be prepared to adapt to new situations with an unbiased perspective.

Have Open Conversations
Keeping silent about a very loud systematic matter can often translate to seeming not to care, even if the situation is at the forefront for you personally. Give guiding questions and lead your team in a positive, productive way. Encourage discussions – and participate! – in those that address your current policies, your work culture and environment. Be the conduit for making changes when they are needed and realize that everyone needs to work together. Communication includes the ability to listen; often times the most important part of leadership.

Be Trustworthy
Feelings of exclusion come down to one simple word:  trust. Regardless of diversity, if an employee feels they cannot trust you as a leader, they will not come to you for guidance. When you, as a leader, are left out of the loop, you cannot fully engage with your team. Learn to manage your own emotions and be aware of the emotions of others. Providing a safe place to work toward a common goal is invaluable.

Recognize Opportunity
See the color, see the differences – respect them, recognize them and include them in a welcoming environment. We are all unique. Seeing this uniqueness of individuals and rather than their job description opens the opportunity to include their whole self in the workplace without fear.

Virginia Tech hosts an annual Leadership Academy and it is always evolving to guide leaders in a way that aligns with the needs of our current environment. The next session begins in August and is a valuable opportunity to outfit leaders with tools to be the change we need. Reach out to me if you would like more information.

In your leadership role you have the chance to establish a conviction of acceptance that will transcend the workplace. You are the fundamental part of the change our world needs. 

Business Bits is brought to you by Leigh Anne Stover ( lstover@vt.edu ), Virginia Tech Marketing & Program Coordinator, Virginia Tech Roanoke Center - (540) 767-6101
Interested in a new job?
Virginia Tech is actively searching for many essential positions. To learn more about available career opportunities,

RIDE Solutions Rewards Program Connects Local Businesses to Customers

RIDE Solutions , the region’s commuter services agency, launched a new app-based ride-matching service in March, 2019. The app allowed commuters across Central and Southwest Virginia to instantly find carpool partners, transit routes, safe bike routes, and more using their mobile device or PC.

Most exciting of all, the app introduced a robust rewards system where commuters could earn points for the sustainable trips they take – carpool, bike, walk, bus, even telecommute – and cash those points in for deals and discounts from thousands of local, national, and online retailers and restaurants.

A firm believer in going local whenever possible, RIDE Solutions is encouraging local businesses to become a rewards program partner. There are two ways to sign up: directly through RIDE Solutions, or by becoming a member of the Entertainment network, where your offer will be seen across multiple platforms and programs. By
becoming a rewards partner, you can connect your products and services with RIDE Solutions’ growing database of thousands of commuters from Central and Southwest Virginia. 

Further, you can help support the quality of life in the Roanoke Valley and beyond by rewarding commuters for driving less and taking cars off the road – improving regional air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing traffic congestion.

Becoming a rewards partner is free – contact Jeremy Holmes at 540-342-9393 or jholmes@rvarc.org to learn more.
Passenger Traffic Continues to Decline at ROA 
May traffic down 90% at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport as COVID-19 impacts air travel.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport saw a decrease in May 2020 traffic down by 90% on a year over year basis. May 2020 saw 6,387 passengers fly via ROA compared to 65,026 in May of 2019, a decrease of 58,639 passengers or 1,891 fewer passengers flying each day in May. Year to date passenger traffic for May was down 50% versus 2019 with 139,573 passengers served this year compared to 280,099 in 2019.

The spread of COVID-19 causing businesses to restrict travel, advisories to restrict non-essential travel, and stay at home orders have all played a role in the decrease of airline operations and travelers which ended the 29 months of consecutive passenger growth, beginning in September of 2016.  

“The decrease in airline operations and passenger traffic this spring was not unexpected due to the pandemic,” stated Timothy T. Bradshaw, A.A.E., executive director of the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission.  “We hope to see passenger numbers continue to gradually increase over the summer and into fall if the threat is diminished. The airlines have changed their schedules considerably and eliminated flights from airports across the country. As airlines rebuild their schedules for the new demand environment, it is critical to use our air service to keep it and help our economy grow. We continue to appreciate the support of our community choosing to fly ROA and not driving out of market to fly.”

The Commission continues to work with the airlines to maintain air service the airport has to serve the region. We are open and operational if the public needs to fly and have enhanced cleaning protocols in place, as have the airlines, to make it as safe as possible. The commission 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 719,000 passengers per year via 4 airlines (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Allegiant Air) with nonstop service to 5 hub cities (Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-O’Hare, 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 .  
Do your employees need to improve their IT or computer skills? Virginia Western can help! With fast-paced, concentrated short programs offered online or in a classroom setting, coursework can be completed in just a few months.

Cutting-edge courses in Networks, Security, Python, Java, Cisco, Cloud, Database, Web technologies, and more are offered and industry certifications can quickly be earned from CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and others. A newly opened state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab provides hands-on experience for collaborative work on Cisco equipment, IoT devices, and more.

Virginia Western meets company technology retraining and job pivoting needs through affordable, invaluable opportunities. Dedicated adjunct faculty working in valley industries complement full-time faculty and offer insight regarding technology needs. Many graduates have become valued employees to local industry partners.

For over 50 years, Virginia Western has been an integral part of technology training in the Roanoke Valley. We pride ourselves in computer science and information technology credit courses for those new to the field or those looking to upgrade skills and earn industry certifications.

For more information, go to http://www.virginiawestern.edu/compsci or email compsci@virginiawestern.edu . Virginia Western also offers teaching opportunities for IT/CS professionals. If you would like to join our dynamic team, please email Diane Wolff at dwolff@virginiawestern.edu .

Don't forget...BizRoanoke is on RVTV Channel 3!

 BizRoanoke is a monthly television program highlighting economic activity and programs within the City of Roanoke.

Tune into RVTV Channel 3 to learn more, access it on our website at 
www.BizRoanoke.com  or follow this link to our most recent show: 

The City of Roanoke Department of Economic Development is on Facebook and Instagram ! Please "like" or "follow" us today!
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Check it Out!
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:

Upcoming Training and Events

Join the Roanoke Small Business Development Center for the following opportunities!
Casual Friday – Small Business Conversations | July 10, 24, 31
Expert-led digital meetup series for small business owners.
Link to register – https://roanokesmallbusiness.org/
Visit Roanoke Small Business Development Center on Facebook!