A Great Place to Live Under the Star

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT June 2013 story "Fixing Up Riverside" by Jeanne Chitty


Aaron EwertAn old mill and scrap yard once occupied the area across the way.
The only reminder of this bygone era is a century-old brick building, which the developers are planning to convert into a coffee shop and restaurant that will maintain the charm of the building’s rough brick walls and enormous wooden beams. Along with this renovation in the project’s first phase will be a five-story 156-unit apartment building with underground parking, and a long pedestrian promenade that will follow the river.

“We are excited about redesigning this space into an urban village, with all of the amenities that people could need. It will be a great place to live under the star, to enjoy dining, entertainment, and exercise right on the river, and to be so close to the downtown scene,” said Aaron Ewert. “Eventually, we will construct a building attached to the front of the apartments, where we’ll put in retail stores and offices on the street level, so our residents will have the convenience of shopping right at their doorstep.”

Read the full story in the June 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Photo: Jeanne Chitty

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. View Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

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Industrial Recruitment Policy: People First

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT May 2013 story "Recruiting outside" by Randolph Walker

Executive Summary: Roanoke, Virginia's newest industrial recruitment policy is about bringing in people first, followed by industry. And the great outdoors is a big part of that lure.

"The old theory is you attract jobs and people follow. The new theory is you attract people and jobs follow in search of talent," says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “We have installed the outdoors as the regional narrative that enables us to get to our ultimate goal, which is to monetize the outdoors as an asset and attract people, money and ideas around the outdoors."

Beth Doughty 
Photo: Dan Smith

Read the full story in the May 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. View Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

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Flying Mouse Brewery Prepares for Takeoff

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT May 2013 story "Of Mice and Beer" by Tom Field


Executive Summary
: Building a brewery to make a craft beer? That's like telling a small rodent he can fly.

Flying Mouse BreweryBartleby Hopsworth is the logo and mascot of the brand new Flying Mouse Brewery off the winding little road between Daleville and Troutville, Virginia. 

"You can be something really small and still be something incredible… from invention," says Frank Moeller.

Frank left his engineering job to strap on new wings in pursuit of his passion. He had been brewing his own been for 18 years, and at the urging of his wife, Debbie, he made the leap to running a brewery even before he had a site.

An abandoned concrete fabrication plant in Botetourt County, Virginia turned out to be a great place to set up. Frank and Debbie are determined to get the 18,000 square foot facility on the 15-acre property ready for production by Fall, 2013.

Read the full story in the May 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Photo: Tom Field

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. View Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Draper Mercantile – The Business of Sustaining Heritage, Heart and Soul

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT May 2013 story "Bring them back to Draper" by Rachel Garrity

Executive Summary: The Draper Mercantile and Trading Company in Montgomery County, Virginia is a thriving restaurant, a stage for performers, a private room for special events, a small specialty grocery and a gallery space to showcase the creations of local writers, craftspeople and artists.


Draper Mercantile in Draper, Virginia

As their vacation property business mushroomed, Debbie and Bill Gardner needed office space, and they were eager to showcase the rich culture that bespeaks the New River Valley of Virginia and its surrounds. So, in 2008 they bought a building that had been most recently a furniture store, but had served myriad purposes since its early 19th century construction – a general store, a barber shop, a blacksmith, the post office, a dress shop, an antiques emporium and even a branch of the Pulaski County library. Draper Mercantile – the Merc – was born.

Read the full story in the May 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Photo: Rachel Garrity

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. View Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Real Estate: Coming Back?

An excerpt from the from the Valley Business FRONT May 2013 cover story "Prospect on Real Estate" by Dan Smith

Executive Summary: The building trades and all that surrounds them have been in a serious slump for years now, but there seems to be some sign of movement in the region’s market. Will it continue? Can it continue?

Valley Business FRONT cover story May 2013Based on historical comparisons, the home building industry is still in a very poor position, but it is poised to rebound modestly because Americans are being offered low mortgage rates, and excess inventory has now dwindled to a palatable level.”

That’s Robert Fralin of The Fralin Companies in Roanoke [Virginia] and his is a relatively optimistic, though guarded, voice in a sea of uncertainty about the near-term future in the construction and real estate segments of our economy. This is one of our most important segments, one that often gives us an indication that we’re headed into or out of a bad economy, something this region traditionally does later (both in and out) than the rest of the nation.

Real estate construction and sales affects so many businesses and disciplines that it can’t be ignored: construction of homes and businesses, sales of both of those, engineering and design, building supplies, banking. They’re all hooked in hard together and they share success and failure.

Read the full story in the May 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News and Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Carter Machinery to Expand Internationally

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT April 2013 article, "Growing internationally," by  Randolph Walker

Executive Summary: The state of Virginia is eager to help companies like Carter Machinery in Salem, Virginia seeking to expand international sales.

Somebody out there needs a 785B off-road truck. Sam Hampton's got plenty for sale.

Sam Hampton of Carter MachineryThey're big. They hold 500 gallons of diesel (cost close to $2,000 to gas up) and haul 150 tons of dirt and rock. The 3,158-cubic inch, 12-cylinder engine puts out 1,290 horsepower. The tires are ten feet tall.

Expertly rebuilt by the mechanics at Carter Machinery in Salem, Virginia, these Cat heavy trucks go for $1.6- $1.7 million.

The buyers won't necessarily be in the United States. They might be mine equipment managers in the growing economies of South America, South Africa or Australia.

Hoping to expand international sales, Carter enrolled in VALET, a program of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. VALET stands for Virginia Leaders in Export Trade.

“It's a wonderful program that assists Virginia companies with their desires to grow internationally,” says Sam Hampton, director of marketing at Carter, “and it's flexible enough that regardless of what your industry is, they've designed it in such a way that it can be tailored to your specific needs.”

At any one time, there are 50 companies in VALET. Carter enrolled in January, 2013. “Graduates” of the two-year program include John C. Nordt Company, Foot Levelers, Ply Gem, TMEIC Corporation, Virginia Transformer and PESCO-BEAM.

A recent ownership change has spurred Carter's interest. “We've been doing business internationally but it's never been part of our strategic goals to grow that base,” Sam says.

At the introductory meeting in Richmond, Virginia the VEDP helped Carter analyze bills of lading in certain foreign markets to get a handle on the competition. Carter plans to use this and other data, plus the VEDP's expertise, “to help us scope and refine the marketplace to narrow down and focus on areas that give us the best opportunity to win,” Sam says.

The cost to Carter? Nothing. In fact, participants receive $15,000 to offset certain expenses. Sam plans to put grant money toward converting Carter's website into a virtual showroom. “It's important for us to put our best foot forward on this website. That money's going to help us jump start this process,” he says.

The VALET program started in 2002. Funded by the General Assembly, its budget is “about $500,000 plus, including company reimbursements and administrative salaries for two managers,” according to Paul Grossman, vice president of international trade for VEDP.

Acceptance is competitive. Companies must have at least 20 employees, $2 million in sales and be profitable in the U.S. market, and must have spent at least $20,000 in international marketing prior to joining the program. Those are the minimums. The average participant has $34 million in sales, 130 employees, and has been in business more than 30 years.

There are four required meetings annually, with additional webinars. Participants must complete an international business plan before receiving any grant money. “They have to engage. If they don't engage, we kick 'em out of the program,” says Grossman.

Read the full article in the April 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Companies interested in finding out whether they qualify for VALET should see exportvirginia.org or contact Paul Ehrich, international trade manager for VEDP's South Central region, at (540) 772-3905 or [email protected].

Photo: Randolph Walker

On Handshake 2.0, read the Valley Business FRONT News and Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT April 2013 cover story, "Where the wind blows," by Michael Miller

Executive Summary: Finding alternatives to fossil fuels for the nation’s energy needs is becoming increasingly urgent and wind seems to be gaining favor with individuals, institutions and businesses.

Valley Business FRONT Cover Story April 2013While the idea of capturing wind energy to produce essentially “free” electricity is enticing, as with most things in life there is no free lunch here. Wind turbines are certainly less expensive than coal fired power plants, but they produce less electricity as well, and the power they generate is subject to the wind variability and is less reliable. But given appropriate placement, wind is a feasible alternative generation means if other economic factors are also positive. Of course, the production of additional electricity without the associated production of greenhouse gases is attractive.

The cost of wind generation continues to drop as new technologies are developed. The [Department of Energy] DOE has established a goal of having 20 percent of U.S. electrical generation come from wind by 2030…

Although new technology development may reduce the cost of wind generation significantly, placing it in a more competitive position in comparison with other generation methods, there are other costs. For example, large wind farms, especially in mountainous regions such as Virginia, require significant excavation and site preparation including building of roads to transport the large turbine components to the installation.

Potentially more troubling are the oft-stated environmental impacts of large turbines. Noise is certainly a potential problem. The rotating blades produce a constant swoosh-swoosh sound that is loud enough to disturb any households located too near the turbine. The sonic disturbance is not just unpleasant to the ear – it also contains very low frequency components that may be harmful to human and animal life in ways not yet understood. Anecdotal reports abound, but as yet no unequivocal scientific conclusions as to potential harm have been produced. The noise factor itself may be reduced in the long term by technology advances, and in the short term by requiring large setbacks from populated areas.

Bird kills have also been cited as a downside to wind turbines. According to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, up to 37,000 birds are killed each year in the U.S. by collisions with turbine blades. That sounds like a lot of birds, but in reality approximately 90 million birds die annually by flying into buildings, and more than 130 million die in collisions with power lines. While the death of a few pigeons or starlings would probably not bother Roanokers, the loss of a couple of eagles would no doubt be more significant.

Probably the most often heard objection to wind farms concerns their effect on the view shed. Significant wind generation potential exists along the line of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the primary tourist draws in the [Southwest Virginia] region – for its beauty. Installation of large wind turbines along stretches of mountaintop is not likely to be popular in this region, although that is not a foregone conclusion. For example, in Scotland, a country whose economy is significantly tied to tourism, a number of wind farms have been installed. Opinion polls of nearby residents indicated a desire for additional electricity far outweighed any view shed issues, and in fact many of the wind farms have become tourist attractions themselves. Noise problems were nonexistent in these installations, contrary to local expectations. However, some localities have tightened up on the placement regulations to prevent irresponsible installations in the future. In some cases, a limited installation designed to provide more local, off-grid power with reduced impact is seen as the appropriate way forward.

Read the full article in the April 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

On Handshake 2.0, read Valley Business FRONT News and Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

There’s an App for That

"There's An App for That" is by Michael Miller.  "There's an App for That" first appeared in Michael Miller's technology column for  Valley Business FRONT in the June, 2012 issue.  Grateful thanks to Valley Business FRONT and Michael Miller for permission to publish the column on Handshake 2.0.

The first email was transmitted over the an experimental computer communications network in 1971.  Ten years later the “internet” consisted of about 200 host computers, half of which belonged the military.  In 1991, after hearing a report on the successes of the original ARPANET (as it was called then), Senator Al Gore authored the High Performance Communications Act, effectively establishing funding for the commercialization of the internet as we know it today.  (Yes, he sort of did create the internet…)

There are a LOT of apps for that...Whole economic empires have been built and destroyed since those early days, all based on the idea of breaking messages up into small pieces, scattering them out over a hundred electronic pathways and then putting them back together in order.  While many can easily remember a time before information and instantaneous communication were so ubiquitous, it’s getting harder to remember how we functioned back then. 

One example of how much the internet has changed the world is that the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced they would cease publication of the paper version of their trustworthy reference.  They have been replaced by the Google Search Engine and Wikipedia.  Sigh.

But wait, there’s more.

As commonplace as the home computer has become, in the middle of 2010 the sales of smart phones surpassed the sales of PCs at about the same time the tablet platform was introduced.  By the end of 2011 smart phones and tablets made up 60% of computer sales.

And if you own a smart phone or tablet, you can guess what’s coming next.  By the end of 2011 the amount of time Americans spent using mobile applications (apps) to access the internet exceeded the amount of time they used web browsers by a ratio of about 60/40.  This was especially true when we were shopping online.  In fact, tablets have become predominant shopping platforms to the extent that the relatively recently coined term “e-commerce” has been replaced by the newer “t-commerce”.  Heaven help the online store whose display is not scaled for a tablet.

The original internet, which was once handcuffed to land lines and slow transmission speeds, has matured along with cell phone technology so that it is no longer a thing to itself, but merely the road by which we travel.  It’s now just a channel used to deliver product (you and me) to the customer (advertisers). 

And increasingly, there’s an app for that.

Photo by Michael Miller.  More photos by Michael Miller are on Flickr.

Michael Miller is a technologist and senior licensing manager for Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, the technology transfer organization for Virginia Tech.  He provides business consulting and mentoring for technology startups through Kire Technology, and media assistance through Virginia Media Services.