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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

Sep 20

A New Technology Park – Regional Partnerships

Posted on September 20, 2021 at 11:42 AM by Melinda Mayo

Did you know that the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, and the City of Salem are jointly developing a new technology park?  Wood Haven Technology Park  is a 110-acre, planned technology park near the intersection of I-81 and I-581 in Roanoke County.  The park is being developed by the three municipalities through the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facilities Authority (WVRIFA), which Botetourt County, Franklin County, Roanoke County, the City of Roanoke, the City of Salem, and the Town of Vinton formed in 2014.  The purpose of the Authority is to provide a mechanism for localities to cooperate regionally on economic development projects.  The Authority works closely with the Roanoke Regional Partnership and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Planning Commission.

The Need

Several years ago, in response to a recognized lack of large “development-ready” tracts of land in the region, the Roanoke Regional Partnership undertook an extensive inventory of properties throughout the region.  This inventory and its associated assessment resulted in the selection of a site near the intersections of I-81 and I-581 and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport.  The WVRIFA and three of its associated municipalities issued debt to acquire the property and begin prepping it for development.  Preparatory work has included securing proper zoning, clearing of the property, grading of the property, and installation of streets and utilities. A short video with details of the project can be seen here

First Phase

The Wood Haven Technology Park primarily caters to high-technology manufacturing uses, with supporting uses such as office and limited commercial activities. The site will include controlled setting of buildings and access points, with large areas of landscaped buffers and scenic view easements.  The first phase of the project includes a graded pad on a 50-plus-acre tract with access and utilities.  The initial grading for this first phase, which included significant rock removal is nearing completion, the entrance to the park is complete, and most utilities have been extended.

Woodhaven Technology Park offers a great opportunity for local economic development to continue to expand, creating new jobs and new activity.  Woodhaven also illustrates the rewards of municipalities in the region coming together to address needs and seize upon opportunities.  This is the latest in a number of regional efforts, which include the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Planning Commission, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, the Western Virginia Broadband Authority, the Western Virginia Water Authority, and so many more.  When we come together as a region, great things happen!

-- Bob Cowell

Sep 13

Strategy—Council Continues to Plan for the Future

Posted on September 13, 2021 at 2:27 PM by Melinda Mayo

As they have for the past few years, City Council gathered last week for a day to talk strategy.  At their annual Strategic Planning Retreat, Council reviewed their vision for the future of the community and the seven priorities they focus on, along with discussing the strategies used to advance on each of these.  Below are the highlights of the discussion:

Vision and Priorities

The Council retained their vision for the future of the community – essentially the same as it has been for the past several years:

The City of Roanoke is a safe, caring and economically vibrant community in which all have equitable opportunities to live, learn, work, play and prosper.

A vibrant urban center with strong neighborhoods set amongst the spectacular beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Progressing on this vision, of course, was never easy and has become increasingly challenging with the presence of COVID-19 and its many impacts.  Aware of these challenges, Council reviewed each of their seven priorities and the associated strategies to ensure their focus remains aligned with the challenges, and that how we as an organization are advancing on these priorities remains relevant.  The seven priorities remain (in order of budgeted expenditures):

  • Education
  • Community Safety
  • Human Services
  • Infrastructure
  • Good Government
  • Livability
  • Economy

Strategies and Actions

As important as the “why” of the vision statement and the “what” of the priorities are, it is the “how” of strategies and the “what” of actions that make the difference in everyday lives in our community. The Council discussed these and began making appropriate adjustments.

Education – The City allocates nearly $88 million in expenditures toward education.  The strategy includes an emphasis on early childhood learning, good K-12 education, pathways to success after high school and adult learning.  Specific actions include a continued focus on the Star City Reads program; support for learning recovery from the impacts of COVID-19; implementation of the Equity in Action program, which includes the development of a new vocational technical school on the William Fleming High School campus; continued support of the scholarship program at Virginia Western; and a stronger emphasis on developing pathways for youth and area adults toward job training and skills development to connect to growing job sectors.

Community Safety – The City allocates more than $73 million in expenditures toward community safety.  The strategy focuses on prevention, response, communication, and quality standards.   Specific actions include continuation of compensation increases initiated this year and last year to improve recruitment and retention, enhanced focus on gun violence addressing prevention, intervention and justice, and continued maintenance of accreditation and implementation of best practices.

Human Services – The City allocates nearly $44 million in expenditures toward human services. The strategy focuses on empowerment and prevention, and providing a safety net for those in need, with strong efforts at rapidly moving those in need toward self-sufficiency and resiliency.  Specific actions include the continued expansion of the Financial Empowerment Center; provision of social services; and increased emphasis on homelessness, including steps to mitigate the impacts to residents and businesses, and enhanced emphasis on addressing disparities in health outcomes.

Infrastructure – The City allocates more than $28 million in expenditures toward infrastructure.   The strategy is to provide the infrastructure, technology, facilities, and equipment necessary to support sound neighborhoods and business districts.  Specific actions include continued expansion of sidewalk and street repair efforts; timely acquisition and upgrade of facilities, equipment and technology; and increased attention to needs associated with climate adaptation.

Good Government – The City allocates more than $21 million in expenditures toward good government.   The strategy is to provide the best administrative support and high-performance services possible, ensuring efficient and effective service delivery is aligned with responsible financial management.   Specific actions include continued enhancement of the budgeting process to increase the emphasis on budgeting for equitable and empowering outcomes; an enhanced capital improvements program; and continued refinement of personnel practices to attract and retain necessary talent.

Livability – The City allocates more than $19 million in expenditures toward livability.  The strategy is to provide the best facilities and amenities possible, and to engage directly with community members in shaping the future of the community.  Specific actions include plans to update and modern our parks and recreation facilities; enhance the youth sports programs; continued modernizing of our libraries; and enhancement of the existing greenway system.

Economy – The City allocates about $5 million in expenditures toward economic development.   The strategy is to focus on supporting business and asset development, and promote the community and the business opportunities that exist, along with job growth and workforce development.   Specific actions include expansion of workforce development efforts, with a specific emphasis on connecting local residents to job growth in the sectors of healthcare, biomedicine, outdoor recreation, and advanced manufacturing; as well as an enhanced emphasis on supporting the development of complete neighborhoods and community hubs.

What’s Next?

As in the past, the Strategic Planning Retreat is just a step in the process—a process that began with community conversations, surveys, and meetings; and which will include further refinement of the information provided at the retreat, additional presentations and, in February, approval of the revised strategic plan, which will provide additional guidance to the development of the annual budget.  Residents are encouraged to remain engaged by following along via the City’s website, attending City Council meetings in person or through the City’s Facebook livestream, social media, and other news outlets so that you can continue to help shape the future of our City.

-- Bob Cowell

Sep 08

Recognizing the Essential Roles of Labor in Our Community

Posted on September 8, 2021 at 10:45 AM by Melinda Mayo

This week we noted Labor Day, a day set aside to acknowledge and celebrate labor.  With a renewed sense of the essential role many who labor in our community play, and as a result of COVID, it is appropriate to recognize such.

A Matter of Life and Death

This year, more so than any in recent memory, has reminded us all of the value of those that labor in our hospitals, ambulances, and nursing homes.  Nurses, doctors, paramedics, and caregivers always provide valuable services.  But, in these days of COVID, they have been called upon to perform extraordinary acts.  And to do so day after day, month after month, we should all be thankful for their labor.

Labor of Learning

Teaching is often recognized as a noble calling. Few things could be of greater value than helping prepare and educate our youth for their future and to better our community.  To say that the stresses of this labor increased these past two years would be an understatement. To comply with Stay-At-Home orders, teachers were required to provide virtual learning. Even after returning to the classroom, they were tasked with regular cleaning of desks and surfaces between classes, ensuring students wear masks, and constantly monitoring for the virus. Their added responsibility for staying attuned to the health of the children in their charge and their own health has elevated the significance of their work.  We should all be thankful for their labor.

In the Public Interest

I am very proud of City employees who have continued to provide essential services through the pandemic without interruption.  Trash has been collected and safely disposed of; 911 calls have been accepted and emergency services have continued to be dispatched; law enforcement and fire personnel have responded when residents are in their moment of greatest need; streets and storm sewers have been repaired; children and adults have been able to access books and learning materials from our libraries; our parks and greenways have provided much needed respite; and many more have worked behind-the-scenes to ensure this work could get done.  Absolutely none of this would have been possible without the commitment of the more than 1,700 City employees who work on the frontlines for the community’s behalf.  We should all be thankful for their labor.

Taking Care of the Ordinary 

Perhaps never in our past have we realized how important those people are who provide the everyday and ordinary essentials of living.  The grocery clerks, the pharmacy technicians, the delivery drivers, the bus drivers, and so many more have reminded us all just how essential the services they provide are and how often they toil in relative obscurity.  We should all be thankful for their labor.

It’s been a difficult couple of years.  Few have avoided the impacts of COVID and yet, together we all labor to respond and recover and to become more resilient to such shocks in the future.  We all should celebrate the work we do, the labor we undertake to continue to make Roanoke as strong as it can be!

-- Bob Cowell