March 2021
Freedom First Partners with City of Roanoke to Bring
CVDBG-CV Grants to Local Microbusinesses
CDBG-CV Small Business Relief Grants can be used to pay for a limited scope of expenses.
In response to the economic hardships experienced by micro businesses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Roanoke, in partnership with Freedom First has launched a small business relief grant program utilizing Community Development Block Grant - Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) federal funding.

This is a grant program created in response to businesses at-risk of closing or laying off employees due to COVID-19, and the goal is to keep businesses open and retain or create jobs in the City of Roanoke.

To be eligible, the business must be a for-profit small business in the City of Roanoke and create/or retain jobs for low-to-moderate income people in the region. If the business has previously received Cares Act Funding, they CAN still apply as long as the CDBG-CV Small Business Relief Grant funds are used for a different purpose than the initial Cares Act Funding. Funds can be used to pay for a limited scope of expenses, such as:

  • Working capital such as wages, utilities, and rent
  • Costs to comply with COVID-19 related CDC standards
  • Other costs that will enable the business to reopen (as outlined in the program qualifications)

"Through these difficult times, small businesses have struggled to invent new ways to sustain their operations and stay open, said City Manager Bob Cowell. This small business relief grant program will continue the City's efforts at offering much needed support to do what we can to help keep our small businesses afloat."

"We are excited to partner with the City of Roanoke to distribute these grants to our local small businesses, said Freedom First SVP of Community Development Dave Prosser. Roanoke has a reputation for many one-of-a-kind, locally-owned small businesses, and we want to ensure they have the means to reopen and retain jobs for our workforce once lockdown restrictions have eased."
Roanoke Region Sees Boost in Population Growth

The Roanoke Region is where people want to live, work, and play more than ever.

Population growth from 2019 to 2020 almost quadrupled the average annual rate over the last decade in the Roanoke Region, growing by nearly 1,500 people during that time. Population is up 0.45% in one year, 3.9 times the average rate of annual growth from 2010 to 2020, according to data from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Changing Lives Through Career Opportunities -
City of Roanoke Kicks Off Roanoke Youth Summer Work Program
Program currently seeking interested employers to partner for summer opportunities.
In the Fall of 2019, a high school graduate spoke before Roanoke City Council about his future plans.  He was ready to tackle the next phase in life, however his road to success did not come easy.  Due to family circumstances, he had difficulty attending school daily and was in danger of dropping out.  

Thanks to the Roanoke Youth Summer Work Program (YSWP), this young man was able to graduate and create a plan to become career ready.  

Case workers with a partner agency in the project visited his home and spoke with his family, and both sides were able to find a solution that allowed him to return to school and graduate on time.  If not for his participation in the YSWP, this student may not have returned to school. 

The Roanoke Youth Summer Work Program began in 2017 with the purpose of placing high school students and recent high school graduates who reside in the City in summer jobs, allowing them to earn an income.  Since the start of the program, the City has learned YSWP is more than an opportunity for students to earn money.  It also provides soft skills for students before they enter the workforce - skills such as resume writing, successfully completing an application and interviewing, and maintaining professional relationships with co-workers - all skills local employers say some job seekers are lacking.  

For high school students not yet 16 years of age, the YSWP provides a career exploration camp to get them ready to enter the workforce.  Since the start of the program, approximately 300 students have successfully completed either the soft skills training and employment track or the career exploration track.  Some have been retained by their employers at the conclusion of the summer.  (The program was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19.) 

The City is currently planning to hold the program in 2021, while following safety protocols set forth by the Office of the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This year the option of paid internships will be available for students to gain experience in careers they may want to pursue after high school.  

If your business can offer employment, paid internship experiences or career exploration opportunities, contact Aisha Johnson in the Roanoke Office of Economic Development by telephone at (540) 853-5661 or by email at  

The goal is to continue giving students employment experiences and career exploration opportunities in hopes of getting them career ready, similar to the young man who was able to graduate and enter the next phase of his life.            
Spotlight on Business -
Chris's Coffee & Custard
Where hot coffee meets cool friends!
At Chris's Coffee & Custard, the most significant goal is to make a positive change in a person's life. Chris's Coffee & Custard is a unique coffee and custard shop. They will serve you a wonderful cup of coffee or a delicious cup of custard while creating opportunities for gainful and meaningful employment for individuals of all walks of life, focusing on Roanoke's special abilities community. The majority of Chris's employees will have special God given gifts, talents and abilities. They are advocates for the value, inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities and will show them that they deserve the same opportunities as other people in our community.

LovABLE Services, Inc. is the register 501(c)(3) non-profit parent corporation that is the comprehensive training company supporting Chris's Coffee & Custard. Chris's is the job training site for LovABLE Services, and provides a complete training program in a safe and nurturing environment giving job opportunities for young adults with special skills and abilities to enhance life skills, social skills and unique job skills training. Their skill set will be matched to a specific job to set Chris's employees up for success. Having a job gives these individuals a sense of dignity, purpose, belonging and an opportunity to develop independence.
Maternal stress may disrupt children’s health, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, UCLA researchers find
Study reveals importance of providing women health, emotional support during pregnancy.

A recent study found stress felt by pregnant mothers can adversely affect their children’s health in later life. Sharon Landesman Ramey, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, emphasized that children affected by maternal stress may face health challenges, but the challenges can be surmounted with proper care and support. (Photo by Depositphotos)
Pregnant mothers share nutrition with their babies, but that’s not all. They may also pass along stress signals to their children. Unmanaged, that stress can adversely affect children’s lives, potentially heightening the likelihood of disease later in life, according to researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Roanoke River Earns USA Today 10Best Award 
Blueway in Virginia's Blue Ridge named a "Best Urban Kayaking Spot"
The results are in after a four-week public competition! Among twenty total nominees for the ten best urban kayaking spots in the US, the Roanoke River in Virginia’s Blue Ridge received outstanding third place recognition in the 2021 USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice travel award contest for “Best Urban Kayaking Spot.” 

Due to its unique proximity to downtown Roanoke as well as popular local parks, outfitters and trails, this river is a known metro mountain adventure in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. In addition to kayaking, the 45-mile Roanoke River Blueway ranges from flat-water to Class II rapids as it flows through the region, offering tubing, fishing, birding and wildlife sightseeing nearly year-round. 

With its beautiful mountain setting and easy accessibility, the Blueway is a great way to experience the outdoors in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. 
Vineyard Expands to Open Tasting Room & Restaurant in
Downtown Roanoke!!
Founded in 2008 by three women who recognized the value of a good joke and a great glass of wine, Well Hung® Vineyard has a proud heritage and a bright future. Today, Well Hung® Vineyard is all about growth. Working with winegrowers across the country, the company is able to source the best fruit to go into up and coming wines. We are happy to report that the vineyard has recently expanded from Gordonsville, VA (just north of Charlottesville) to 402 S. Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke.
Interested in a new job?

Virginia Tech is actively searching for essential positions. To learn more about available career opportunities, click below.
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 or click below for our most recent show featuring 
The City of Roanoke Department of Economic Development is on Facebook and Instagram! Please "like" or "follow" us today!
Check it Out! (NEW LISTING AVAILABLE with March 31 deadline!!)

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
Virginia Economic Development Partnership International Trade (VEDP) is happy to highlight several virtual events to help you stay up to date on the latest topics in the international trade arena. Please join the following sessions hosted by VEDP International Trade and their partners at the US Commercial Service, and Virginia Small Business Development Center.

The USMCA Virginia Workshop Series -
Increase sales to Mexico and Canada in this three-part webinar series:

Session 1: Export Opportunities in Canada & Mexico
  • Tuesday, March 9, 2021 - 3:00 - 4:30pm
  • To learn more and register, click here
  • Learn about sales opportunities for your products and services in Canada and Mexico from in-country experts in each country. Also, hear about how to utilize federal and state resources to access those opportunities faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost.

Session 2: USMCA and Customs, Changes in the Rules of Origin, and Documentation
  • Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 3:00 - 4:30pm
  • To learn more and register, click here
  • Make the USMCA work for you by learning about changes in rules of origin along with the proper export/import documentation to streamline your supply chain. Learn how to navigate regulations to verify that your shipments are compliant and prevent fees, unexpected costs, and shipping delays. Hear from SBDC USMCA counselors and customs attorneys.

Session 3: Government Procurement & Advocacy
  • Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - 3:00 - 4:30pm
  • To learn more and register, click here
  • This webinar will provide an overview of procurement opportunities in Canada and Mexico and how the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center assists Virginia exporters with bidding on foreign procurement contracts. Hear from the U.S. Commercial Service Officers in each country. 
Workshop: What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Final Permanent Standard
The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board adopted §16VAC25-220, Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19 on January 13, 2021. It went into effect on January 27, 2021. Compliance with the FPS is required by March 26, 2021.

In order to help Virginia manufacturers reach compliance by the March 26 deadline, GENEDGE is collaborating with the Virginia Manufacturers Association's Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) in hosting a March 9th workshop led by industry expert David Crawford.

Register now as the last day to register is March 5th.