In a first for the locality, Roanoke County has partnered with Virginia Tech to develop a five-year county economic development strategic plan.
“We want to benchmark where we are today with goals that we hope to achieve in five years and then revisit it to see if we’re keeping up with what we said we wanted to do,” explains Jill Loope, director of economic development for Roanoke County.
Last summer, Loope approached Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development for help developing the plan, now dubbed Elevate 2026.
A grant from Appalachian Power and federal CARES Act funds received by Virginia Tech covered the $30,000 cost of creating the plan. “So, I’m getting this plan done with no local financial participation from the county coffers,” Loope says. “I’m particularly proud of that.”
Early in the process, officials from the county and Tech worked to build a survey designed to gauge how area business and government leaders, as well as members of the public, felt about the county’s business climate and other matters.
As of the survey’s April 2 deadline, Ashley Posthumus, an economic development specialist at Virginia Tech who is helping with the project, said she had received about 200 completed surveys from stakeholders in the region and another 150 from the public.
A 12-person steering team also meets regularly to help guide the creation of the plan. “It’s not just Virginia Tech. It’s not just me,” says Loope. “It’s members of the business community and leaders in the community that are helping steer the course.”
The Virginia Tech team is also scheduling interviews with Roanoke County industry leaders as well as education, workforce initiatives and tourism stakeholders. “This is just our initial round of interviews that we’re doing to kind of gain what kind of perspectives they have on the region and what they think are strengths,” Posthumus explains.
Late last year in the county, Mack Trucks Inc. opened its new medium-duty truck plant, which is expected to produce 250 direct jobs and 600 spinoff jobs. Tanglewood Mall also is active, with a $30 million Carilion Clinic children’s outpatient center set to produce 300 jobs.
This is the first time Roanoke County’s economic development office has developed a formal strategic plan since Loope joined the office in 2000. A public presentation is scheduled for November.