March 2020

Mast General Store in Roanoke to Hold Ribbon Cutting April 8
After much anticipation, the Mast Store has announced its opening date. The ribbon cutting will be held on Wednesday, April 8. Festivities will begin at 9:15 a.m. with speakers including the Honorable Sherman P. Lea, Sr., mayor of Roanoke and Lisa Cooper, president of Mast General Store. The official opening will be at 10 a.m.

Located at 401 South Jefferson Street, the Mast Store’s “newest” location dates to 1915 and has been occupied by two of the city’s top retailers. Thurman & Boone Furniture originally built the structure and for a time shared space with Heironimus and WDBJ radio before both relocated.

“We are excited to be a part of all that is happening in and around Roanoke,” said Lisa Cooper, president of Mast General Store. “The city’s star is continuing to rise with new opportunities for locals and even more reasons for visitors to plan a stay in the Roanoke Valley.”

Mast Store’s Roanoke location will feature traditional fashions, rugged outdoor gear and outerwear, travel clothing, hiking and casual footwear, home décor, country gourmet foods, and barrels overflowing with hundreds of old-fashioned favorite candies.

Somona Stacey, the general manager of the store, is well acquainted with the location. She worked in the Heironimus store both as an associate and a buyer before spending time in the hospitality industry. “I remember my time at Heironimus fondly,” recalled Stacey. “It was like a big family, and I get the same feeling from the Mast Store organization.”

Jeff Meadows, Mast Store’s vice president of branding and development, serves as the on-site designer. He has worked closely with The Monument Companies to restore and rehabilitate the building to its period of significance in the 1920s. Several areas of note include the metal detailing that will echo the city’s ties to the railroad and the openness of the space with an abundance of natural light coming through the transom.

The Mast General Store traces its roots back to its “Original Store” in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. Built in 1883, it still features a pot-bellied stove, nickel cups of coffee (paid for on the honor system), and a working post office. Other locations in this employee-owned family of stores include the Mast Store Annex in Valle Crucis (1909), Downtown Boone (1923), Downtown Waynesville (ca. 1935), Downtown Hendersonville (1905), Downtown Asheville (ca. 1945), Downtown Greenville (1898), Downtown Knoxville (1898), Downtown Columbia (ca. 1870s), and Downtown Winston-Salem (1928).

Grand opening festivities are scheduled for April 24-26 and include several register to win opportunities, gifts with purchase, and food samplings.

Roanoke store hours are Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Sunday Noon – 6 p.m. 

Mast General Store's signage is placed at the 401 S. Jefferson Street location in downtown Roanoke on Monday, March 9th. Roanoke is the first entry into the Commonwealth of Virginia by the North Carolina retailer.
Virginia Western launches Construction Management program
with announcement of new scholarship
Virginia Housing Development Authority donates $50,000 to help students join in-demand field

Virginia Western Community College began its Spring 2020 semester with a new Construction Management Career Studies Certificate that prepares students to obtain entry-level management jobs in the commercial and residential construction sectors. Developed in collaboration with local industry professionals and businesses, the program will provide students such in-demand skills as cost estimating, safety and building code compliance, supervision and project management.

To assist in launching the program, Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) donated $50,000 to initiate a Construction Management Scholarship with the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation. Recipients can apply through May 3, 2020, for a scholarship that will cover the cost of tuition, books and fees.

“We hear from construction companies in the Roanoke Region all the time about their need for qualified and quality employees,” said Yvonne Campbell, Dean of the School of Business, Technology and Trades. “This program is going to help students get a start in the industry while helping drive the local economy. We are so thrilled and thankful that VHDA sees the value this program will bring to our community and is helping overcome barriers students may have.”

The Construction Management program offers flexibility for students who want to pursue the certificate part-time while still working during the day. Most of the program’s classes are offered during evenings, and some can be completed in a weekend. If attending full-time, students can complete the fast-track program in two semesters.

The Educational Foundation projects the VHDA donation will provide the financial support needed for at least 11 students to complete the Construction Management program. The Educational Foundation and VHDA are seeking industry support of the scholarship to continue its impact for years to come.

“This scholarship program will help fill the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry, which in turn will help increase the amount of affordable housing in the Commonwealth,” said VHDA Chief Executive Officer Susan Dewey. “We are very pleased to help Virginians pursue their certificates in construction management, and we would like to thank the Roanoke Regional Housing Network and Virginia Western Community College for helping to make this program a reality.”
Students completing the 24-credit Construction Management program will earn a Career Studies Certificate as well as OSHA and CPR certifications that are embedded within the program. To learn more about the Construction Management program, call (540) 857-7272 or visit .
For information about the Construction Management Scholarship or to donate, contact Philanthropy Director Amanda Mansfield at (540) 857-6962 or In addition to the Construction Management Scholarship, the Virginia Western Educational Foundation supports more than 120 additional scholarships for full and part-time students in various programs of study. Applications for the Fall 2020 semester will be accepted through May 3, 2020. To learn more, go to
SafeSide Tactical Partnering to Offer New DCJS Course

SafeSide and Executive Security Concepts has partnered to bring one of the most in-depth DCJS courses to our region, Personal Protection Specialist, on March 16 th through the 26 th , 2020. This course prepares students to enter the high-demand high-energy, and high-paying field of Executive Protection / Private Bodyguard Service.

The class is being offered at SafeSide’s Roanoke training facility located at 1201 Shenandoah Ave NW. Students will be challenged in this 10-day immersive course which covers 6 full days in the classroom and 4 days on the range. Students who complete the course will receive certifications from the Department of Criminal Justice Service for the 32E, 07E and 09E classes. (Personal Protection Specialist, Basic and Advanced Handgun certifications respectively).

The partnership between SafeSide and Executive Security Concepts brings together two local businesses to provide a state of the art DCJS training facility and decades of combined experience providing high level executive protection. The ever growing and in demand sector of executive protection means that students who complete the course will be able to be placed into this high paying job field. 

SafeSide Tactical, based in the City of Roanoke is a federally licensed Manufacturer and Dealer of Firearms. Their State-of-the-Art indoor shooting facilities are among the finest in the country and provide a safe, clean environment to learn, train, practice, and compete in the shooting sports. This company buys, sells, and trades new and used guns, and performs custom builds and gunsmithing services. They also offer a selection of firearms, tactical accessories, clothing, survival gear and hunting supplies.

To learn more about SafeSide Tactical, visit
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 March 25 summit 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.
Doctoral student named Society for Neuroscience Policy ambassador

Ubadah Sabbagh, a doctoral candidate in Virginia Tech’s translational biology, medicine, and health program.
Ubadah Sabbagh, a doctoral candidate in Virginia Tech’s translational biology, medicine, and health program who conducts research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, was selected as one of 10 members of the Society for Neuroscience to participate in the Society’s annual Capitol Hill Day on Thursday, March 5.

Advocating in front of the Congress is nothing new for Sabbagh, who has visited Washington, D.C., on three previous occasions to explain the value of scientific research and advocate for investments in research funding.

But Capitol Hill Day marks the first time he did so as one of Society for Neuroscience’s 10 Early Career Policy Ambassadors, each chosen for their dedication to advocating for the scientific community, their desire to learn more about effective means of advocacy, and their experience as leaders in their labs and community.

“With my colleagues, I will thank members of Congress for their support of biomedical research, and advocate for continued investments as they craft the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” Sabbagh said. “I will talk about advances in the field of neuroscience, the economic and public health benefits to the taxpayer of investment in biomedical research, but I also love sharing how science helps us meet great challenges and inspires us, our neighbors, and communities.”

In addition to his position as an ambassador for the Society for Neuroscience, Sabbagh will for the first time be in his new role as a principal investigator on a federally funded research grant to map an unexplored brain region and study optic nerve regeneration.

Sabbagh is mentored by Michael Fox, a professor of biological sciences at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

“By meeting face-to-face with young scientists such as Ubadah, lawmakers learn about science and its value to society from the perspective of our next generation of biomedical research leaders,” said Michael Friedlander, the executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech. “These meetings lay the groundwork for long-term discussions that benefit lawmakers, scientists, and, most of all, citizens throughout the U.S.”

In addition to Virginia Tech, Early Career Policy Ambassadors hailed from Midwestern University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis, Utah State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Cincinnati, the University of California-Los Angeles, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The 2020 Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia's Blue Ridge Bike Course Officially Announced 
The IRONMAN Group, a Wanda Sports Group company, announced today course details for the inaugural Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon taking place on Sunday, June 7, 2020. The center piece for the 70.3-mile route includes the bike course that will roll along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service filled with scenic views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

“Adding to the long history of endurance events throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge region, this year’s Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon will feature epic locations for the swim, bike and run portions of the first year event,” said Keats McGonigal, Senior Regional Director for The IRONMAN Group. “Specifically, for the bike portion of the event, the scenic byway will offer athletes a picturesque view like no other along America’s Favorite Drive. This event presents a unique opportunity for recreational access to the park and invites participants to share in the stewardship of this special place — the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our nation’s treasured landscapes. We are excited about the course that athletes will have the chance to experience as they achieve their dreams of crossing the finish line at the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge. We are also grateful to everyone who responded in support of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon, realizing the overall economic benefit of the competition and recognizing the limited access of motor vehicles ensuring a safer experience for bikers.” 

"Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) is poised to welcome IRONMAN athletes and fans as the host destination,” said Lee Wilhelm, Chair of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “The outpouring of support from athletes, longtime residents and community stakeholders who took the time to contact the NPS was truly remarkable. We are grateful to live in a region where the people are passionate about tourism. Visit VBR is committed to working collaboratively with our regional partners and IRONMAN to ensure the race is a success.”

To view a video message from Senator Mark Warner regarding today’s announcement click here

To view the full release click here

For more information about The Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia's Blue Ridge Triathlon click here
Growth of Passenger Traffic Continues at
Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport
2020 kicks off with strong growth as January traffic up 7.1% at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport is off to a good start in 2020 with January traffic growing 7.1% on a year-over-year basis. January 2020 saw 53,016 passengers fly via ROA compared to 49,464 in January, 2019. This equates to 114 additional passengers flying ROA each day.

Strong community support, additional capacity (up 4.2%), fare moderation and improved airline operational reliability have continued to play a role in sustained passenger growth, which began in September 2016 and has been sustained for 28 consecutive months.

“We are pleased to see this positive trend continue into 2020, 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 .  

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport Master Plan has been initiated by the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission to be a guiding framework for future airport development for the next 20 years. The impact of the airport on the Roanoke and New River Valley communities is growing through its support of job creation and creative land use development. The airport must consider the magnitude of possibilities for continuing to provide not only an outstanding airport experience, but a solid infrastructure that supports the growth of this region.

Airports are complex infrastructures. Future airport development must take into account community issues that go beyond air service development to reflect environmental, socio-economic, and economic interests and opportunities. The Master Plan will present a thorough account of the implications and opportunities of airport growth by forecasting passenger demand as well as infrastructure modifications.

In 2020, the Master Plan enters its public phase to engage citizens, businesses, and community stakeholders. The Master Plan is being closely coordinated by a Master Plan Advisory Committee and Expert Panel composed of government, business, and citizen representatives. Over the next 12 months, public workshops will be conducted at critical junctures to share progress and obtain valuable feedback from the public.

For more details about the Master Plan, visit the Featured BizLink above.


What’s so hard about decision making?

Nothing. If fact, we make thousands of decisions every day ranging from what to wear, what to eat, to what to say. You are a decision making machine! But when it comes to making decisions about less routine things where outcomes are less certain, decision making can be daunting. So let’s explore a few things to sharpen our decision making abilities, especially for those more difficult decisions.

According to Stanford Business School Professor Baba Shiv, about 90 to 95 percent of our decisions are based on emotion. Surprisingly, we’ll make decisions based on what we believe will make us happy and then rationalize that decision. Have you ever had this conversation with yourself? “If I have that candy bar for snack instead of an apple, I’ll just eat less at dinner.” Emotion-based snack food decisions aside, what about those big life decisions such as buying a home, selecting a profession, or getting married? Apparently, those are likely emotion-based decisions as well. Here are 4 simple things you can do to improve your decisions, whether they are based on emotion or reason.

1)      Make important decisions in the morning . It turns out that the natural chemicals in our brains are better balanced in the morning and that balance will help us think more clearly about our decisions. However, if you’re planning on making an important decision at work and you had an unusually stressful commute into the office, research suggests postponing the decision until the commute goes smoother.

2)      Get a good night’s sleep . A good night’s sleep is the deep and uninterrupted sleep, where your mind rests and your brain chemicals re-balance to their natural levels. Staying up late binge watching your favorite TV melodrama or painting the town red with an old college buddy will definitely impact your capability for deep sleep and affect your decision-making the next morning.

3)      Exercise . Physical fitness will also improve decision-making. Research has shown that exercise helps the brain maintain a natural chemical balance for longer periods during the day. So exercise regularly, even if it’s going for long walks after dinner, and if you absolutely have to make an important decision in the afternoon, get a workout in during lunch.

4)      Eat a High Protein Breakfast . Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if you are making decisions. The more protein the better!         

Admittedly, there is much more to making better decisions than these four suggestions, for example: gathering relevant data, analyzing the facts, and overcoming cognitive biases. However, having a sharp mind will go a long way in making better decisions.

Business Bits is brought to you by Lesa Hanlin ( ), 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:

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