May 2020
City of Roanoke Partners with Roanoke Economic Development Authority and Total Action for Progress/Business Seed Capital, Inc. to Benefit Roanoke Small Businesses
COVID19 Relief Loan Fund offers loans up to $3,000 with deferred payment
The City of Roanoke is pleased to announce a plan to assist City-based small businesses facing challenges as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.

Through a partnership with the Roanoke Economic Development Authority and Total Action for Progress, loans up to $3,000 each will be available through Business Seed Capital, Inc. to offset costs associated with employees, rent, leases, and utilities.  Terms of the BSCI loans will be 0% interest with a 12-month maturity and a 90-day deferred payment.

“Roanoke’s COVID19 Relief Loan Fund is intended to help businesses as quickly as possible. To this end, Total Action for Progress has agreed to deploy its BSCI Program to streamline the application process for applicants,” said Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell.

Eligibility criteria for funding is as follows: 

1.     Funds are to be used for Roanoke City-based employees, rent, lease, or utilities associated with a Roanoke City location, 
2.     The applicant’s primary business location must be within the City of Roanoke, although the owner may reside elsewhere,
3.     The business must be:
·         At least two years old
·         Have less than 25 full-time employees
·         Hold a current Roanoke City Business License and be current on all fees, permits, and taxes as of February 29, 2020,
4.     Applicant must own at least 50% of the business and provide a personal guarantee of repayment in the form of the Note,
5.     Applicant must submit eight weeks of past payroll expenses, two years of financial statements and tax returns, and two years of personal tax returns.

“The Economic Development Authority is honored to support this local partnership initiative to assist our small businesses during these unprecedented times. It is an example of how our respective entities can quickly come together and make decisions that have an immediate impact on businesses and employees based in the City of
Roanoke,” said Roanoke EDA Chair Braxton Naff. 
To learn more about the COVID19 Relief Fund and to apply, contact Curtis Thompson, TAP at 540-589-6483 or by email at . You may also contact Sean Adkins in the City of Roanoke Department of Economic Development at 540-853-5405 or by email at .

Formed in 1968 by Roanoke City Council, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) is an Industrial Development Authority existing under the Virginia Industrial Development and Revenue Bond Act.  Seven directors, serving staggered four-year terms, work closely with the City of Roanoke’s Department of Economic Development to serve the business community of the city.

Total Action for Progress (TAP) is a community action agency that serves eleven localities in the Roanoke Valley and adjacent communities: the counties of Alleghany, Bath, Botetourt, Craig, Roanoke, and Rockbridge, and the cities of Buena Vista, Covington, Lexington, Roanoke, and Salem.  TAP offers direct services, working with individuals and families, to help them overcome their problems and improve their lives, with the goal of helping them assert themselves as advocates for their own needs.
Spotlight on Business

Carey & Betty Custer opended Custer's Custom Painting (CCPS) in the early 1970's.

Located at 328 Bullitt Avenue, the company had been successful for nearly three decades focused primarily on residential painting projects with a few commercial jobs in the mix when the Custer's enlisted son-in-law Tim Lilley to serve as president in 1999.
Virginia Tech School of Business graduate with a sales background, Lilley's charge was to grow the company's footprint in the commercial and industrial markets.

Mr. Custer's son, Brad Custer also joined the company, as well. As Vice President of Field Operations, he oversees work crews and monitors the quality and progress of projects. Another son-in-law, Brett Matthews, also a Virginia Tech graduate, joined the company in 2005 as Vice President of Estimating and Director of Safety.

Thanks to the drive and expertise of these three gentlemen, this family business has grown in sales over the last 30 years from $500,000 to the current $3.5 million in annual sales.

Over the last decade, CCPS has been the largest Sherwin-Williams painting contractor account in all of central & southwest Virginia.  Even in the unprecedented business environment surrounding the COVID19 pandemic, CCPS remains on track for a record sales year in 2020.  An average day has CCPS sending out 50 or more painters to over 15 job sites. 

Projects completed or currently underway extend from the Roanoke Region into Lexington, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, New River Valley, and Bristol.  Most larger job contracts are with general contractors in the area such as F&S Building Innovations, Avis Construction, Lionberger Construction, MB Contractors, Thor Construction, Building Specialists, Duncan Properties, Skanska USA, The Whiting-Turner Company, Barton-Malow, Branch Builds, and Construction Management Associates (CMA).

Within the City of Roanoke, CCPS' current projects include Pinnacle Bank's new corporate offices, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute expansion at Riverside, the new STEM building at Virginia Western Community College and Woodland Hills Independent Living. The company is also working on the Hotel Roanoke Grand Ballroom and Pine Room renovations, the Fallon Park Elementary School renovations, the new Holiday Inn Express on Orange Avenue, and Varsity Park along Franklin Road.

The largest single contract in the company's history is the Richfield Retirement Campus Redevelopment which has taken 3 years to paint 7 buildings with 28 different paint colors. Outside of Roanoke, notable projects include the Richard L. Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center on the campus of Washington & Lee University, the Post Facilities Infrastructure Project at the Virginia Military Institute, Catawba Hospital, Liberty University Williams Football Operations Center and Liberty Sports Arena, Virginia Tech Athletics Weight Room Expansion, East Lake Community Church, and The Sessions Hotel Complex in downtown Bristol. 
CCPS President Tim Lilley claims the most unique project in which the company has participated was the 2005 episode of ABC’s  Extreme Home Makeover in Blacksburg. They donated all labor expenses to paint the featured home in just two days. Tim remembers instructing the paint crew on specs for both inside and outside of the house as they began their work at 1:30 am on a cold winter night!                                           
Lilley says the company is currently blessed with enough contracted work for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021, and they are always looking for experienced painters.  Lilley also said being a small, family business has its challenges, but they've found a way to make it work.

To learn more about the company, visit them on Facebook at Custer's Custom Painting to view their projects or call 540-981-1424.
Call for Applications: CDBG-CV Funds
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
The City of Roanoke is seeking applications from qualified non-profits or governmental agencies to receive and program CDBG-CV funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the FY 20-21 program year. These funds are restricted for use in the direct response and recovery of COVID-19 related impacts to the citizens of Roanoke. The city is seeking applications ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 for programming addressing the following priorities:

o Support for the Homeless and those at risk of Homelessness,
including shelter operations
o Workforce Development
o Small business loans/grants for capital or job creation or retention
o Microenterprise Assistance
o Physical/Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services related to COVID-19
o Food Assistance

Application information can be found  here .  

Deadline for submission is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2020. 

Questions? Please contact Keith Holland, Community Resources Administrator, at .
Last month we talked about one of the traditions Mast General Store Owners John and Faye Cooper established following the re-opening of the Original Mast Store in Valle Crucis, NC which was giving back to the community. Over the years, that tradition has grown to include organizations and causes in three major categories – human needs, arts and education, and conservation across all our home communities. That tradition is continuing, but this year, they are asking for the help of their patrons. That's where Gift Cards for Good comes in.

Agencies like Roanoke's Feeding Southwest Virginia - our local food security partner - needs help with putting food on the table now more than ever. To this end, Mast General Store launched the Gift Cards for Good program in March and 20% of a Mast General Store gift card purchase will be donated to Feeding Southwest Virginia.

While Mast General Store is eagerly anticipating the Roanoke store opening, delayed due to COVID19, the company feels it is important to support their new community. When ordering, be sure to include the food bank you wish to support in the Order Notes field at checkout.
Regional Economic Impact Explained
COVID-19 is expected to have a significant, negative economic impact on the entire nation. What is the impact on the Roanoke Region?
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.

Famed FBI Negotiator Provides Advice to Regional Audience Despite Event Cancellation
While the June Experience 2020 conference for young professionals was canceled due to COVID-19, many of the scheduled speakers are providing short doses of inspiration.

Communications advice from famed FBI hostage negotiator is the latest episode of Experience 2020 Mini Sessions, hosted by the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s Get2KnowNoke.

Gary Noesner, who you might recognize from the streaming Netflix series “Waco,” spent 30 years as an investigator, instructor, and negotiator. Now retired – and living at Smith Mountain Lake – his book “Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator,” is the basis for the 6-episode series.

His online session breaks down how active listening is a vital tool for communicating at home, at work, and especially during a pandemic when stress can strain relationships.
“We asked Gary Noesner to speak at Experience because of his depth of knowledge and also his ability to help people advance in their careers through improved communication,” said Erin Burcham, director of talent solutions for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “Even in the short video above, he provides actionable advice rooted from a storied career.”

A significant focus of Noesner’s career was directed toward investigating Middle East hijackings in which American citizens were victimized. In addition, he was an FBI hostage negotiator for 23 years of his career, retiring as the Chief of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, Critical Incident Response Group, the first person to hold that position. In that capacity, he was heavily involved in numerous crisis incidents covering prison riots, rightwing militia standoffs, religious zealot sieges, terrorist embassy takeovers, airplane hijackings, and over 120 overseas kidnapping cases involving American citizens.

Experience Mini Sessions are weekly blasts of professional development tips and information from speakers who planned to attend the annual conference. Mini sessions have included everything from a working from home assessment to nutrition tips and advice in written,
webinar, and video formats. Content is delivered via email and social media channels under the Get2KnowNoke brand.

All of the Experience Mini Sessions are free and posted online at

Experience, the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s signature talent event, partners with regional businesses to focus on talent attraction, retention and professional development. The conference and year-round events build upon the region’s livability narrative and bring together young professionals and leaders to strengthen the Roanoke Region business community.
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Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has launched its  “Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work”  initiative which will provide recommendations on operating in the current economic climate caused by COVID-19 and how to return stronger than before. The Virginia Chamber will be collecting input from members of the business community to develop this initiative.  Deadline for participation in this survey is May 15.
The Fastest Way To Fiber Internet In Your Area
Who’s getting faster Internet?
It could be you and your neighbors. Let us explain how it works.
By completing the RVBA survey and sharing it with your neighbors, you can now show community leaders and the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority where demand for fiber internet services is greatest. Your feedback is essential to connecting the Roanoke Valley to faster internet.
You've most likely been asked to complete a variety of surveys during this unsettling time. This survey is the only one designed specifically for all companies in the Roanoke Region and implemented only from the Alleghany Highlands to Roanoke Valley to Franklin County. Please take just a few minutes to complete because the information collected will help design and implement assistance for our region.
 Scientists plan labs for COVID-19 testing at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke. Harald Sontheimer (left), a faculty member at the research institute and a professor of neuroscience in the College of Science, and Michael Friedlander (right), executive director at the research institute, expect samples can be returned to health departments within 24 hours. Dipan Patel (second from left), Bhanu Tewari, Thomas Maynard, Robyn Umans, Joelle Martin, and Carmen Muñoz Ballester have worked to finalize testing protocols while practicing social distancing at the Roanoke site.
Virginia Tech researchers develop new COVID-19 tests to combat backlogs, shortages
Virginia Tech scientists have developed a new COVID-19 test and secured federal and state approvals to begin processing samples at on-campus labs in Blacksburg and Roanoke.

The university will support local health departments throughout the region to provide timely analysis to identify patients suspected of having COVID-19 — a critical step in the process of slowing the pandemic in Virginia. No patient samples will be collected at either of the labs — that step is done by health departments or health systems working with health departments, including the Schiffert Student Health Center at Virginia Tech.

Virginia's Blue Ridge - Worth the Wait
We hope you take this time to get inspired. To support one another. To remember your favorite things. And picture the good times ahead. Let's focus on the future and dream up adventure. Because some things are worth the wait.
Virginia's Blue Ridge is worth the wait.

While you are waiting for a safer time to continue your travel plans, we will be here to help inform, inspire, and entertain you and the ones you love.

While You Wait
As we work to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that everyone continues to stay home, stay safe, and practice social distancing. While you wait, we've created some unique ways that you can continue to experience Virginia's Blue Ridge.

There are a variety of virtual, interactive, and educational opportunities to learn more about the region, and we hope that it helps make waiting for your next vacation a little easier. 

Denver, Colorado-based BluSky Restoration Contractors, LLC with offices in the City of Roanoke announced on May 4, a merger with Signal Hill, California-based HARBRO Emergency and Restoration, Inc.

“First and foremost for us is to partner with a firm that we believe will be a great cultural fit. I greatly appreciate HARBRO’s values of integrity, loyalty, quality, responsiveness, and teamwork, and I find them to be a great fit with our values,” said Kent Stemper, BluSky CEO. “HARBRO is extremely strong in California and is well-established and growing its offices in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and this fuels BluSky’s coast-to-coast expansion.”

The two firms bring to bear complementary strengths including HARBRO’s significant mitigation experience and BluSky’s robust reputation for reconstruction work. This move affords BluSky the opportunity to continue achieving its plan of becoming the leading restoration services firm for commercial and multi-family property owners and managers in the United States.
COVID-19 Resources for Businesses and Employees

COVID-19 means it isn’t business as usual in the Roanoke Region. The Featured BizLink above can connect you with the resources available to businesses and employees. Never has it been more important to coordinate the efforts of our local governments and other key agencies to assist our businesses, owners, and citizens.

Please use this resource to learn more about the availability of Business Resources (national resources and programs), Regional Resources and Employee Resources.

Why Marketing Matters

Consider how much time and effort go into marketing your business. Is it something you focus on? Do you have a dedicated person or team for this task? Does marketing often fall by the wayside as a trendy term you aren’t sure is a “need?”

Marketing matters – and here’s why.

Marketing is not only creating engagement on social platforms (which is super important!), it is generating content for your growing audience giving validity to how your brand is viewed. Your brand voice and identification are determined by the way marketing nurtures relationships and generates leads. Your marketer will listen to what people are saying about your business – and your competition. This gives insight into what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, why someone should choose your business over your competition, and what needs you can fill that aren’t being met.

Here are four tips anyone can use to make sure marketing gets the attention needed to ensure success:
1.       Make sure your marketer has all the information they need to form a campaign.
Keep your marketer involved in conversations that include the target audience you want to reach, what your budget is and your expectations. Be open-minded, as marketing is fluid and platform algorithms change constantly. Strategies sometimes have to be re-evaluated.

2.       Embrace creativity.
Guide your marketer in expectations, but allow them to have the creative upper-hand. Giving them ownership of the creative allows them to not only express themselves, but to craft an identity for your business. Having creativity generated and disseminated from one place allows for a cohesive, consistent branding.

3.       Be supportive of professional development.
Recognize that your marketer needs constant professional development opportunities. Allow them the opportunity to identify training courses, conferences, seminars, networking events and professional organizations to help support their career. A supported marketer is a happy marketer!
4.       Know when to hire out.
Don’t expect your marketer to be the master of all projects. There are times when they have the vision, but need other key players to make that vision come to life. Know when to hire someone specialized in graphic design or videography, for instance. This will help your marketer’s idea come to life without the time spent to master and apply a new skill. 

Embrace marketing as not only the means to sell products or services, but as the process of branding your business, identifying opportunities for your business to grow and communicating how it fits into people’s lives. 

Business Bits is brought to you by Leigh Anne Stover ( ), Virginia Tech Marketing & Program Coordinator, Virginia Tech Roanoke Center - (540) 767-6101
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 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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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