America's Growth Cities
Roanoke & Blacksburg, Virginia
Southwestern Virginia – Growth & Good Living
Roanoke and Blacksburg, two independent cities in southwestern Virginia, have expanded toward one another to where they have formed a region of economic, educational, and medical significance. It is one in which entrepreneurial and professional opportunities are within reach to support an attractively balanced lifestyle. The outdoor pleasures of Virginia hill country, with its Blue Ridge and Appalachian ranges, can be enjoyed along with the amenities of modestly-scaled urban living.
It’s a lifestyle that is particularly appealing to young adults, with features that have made the city of Roanoke what The Roanoke Times called a millennial magnet. A recent editorial in the paper said that for the first time in generations, this city of just over one-hundred thousand is experiencing an in-migration of young adults.
The website Apartment List recently did a study of 347 metro areas around the country and found that the Roanoke metro region, which covers Roanoke County and four others, saw its 18-34 millennial population grow faster than any other metro area in Virginia.
The Blacksburg Metro Statistical Area also saw a burst of millennial growth, up 25% over the past five years, not including the undergraduate population at the city’s home campus of Virginia Tech.
Roanoke was a city basically founded on railroads, and when the railroads left in the 1970s due to lack of commerce, Roanoke was hit hard. But in October, 2017, after a 40-year hiatus, an Amtrak passenger train pulled into a downtown Roanoke that had gotten back on its feet. When passengers stepped off, it was into a vibrant urban neighborhood whose residents of 20 years ago had no idea would ever be.
What made it happen?
The overarching dynamic was the urge for urban living that was taking hold with young adults. Buildings that had been abandoned for lack of commercial tenants were converted into apartments that millennials found they’d rather live in than the traditional starter home. It put them in immediate proximity to the city’s shops and entertainment, and to one another. And, of course, there was accessibility to jobs to consider, many of which were in the medical field in which Roanoke was becoming a major presence.
A public-private partnership had been formed to create the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute (VTC), now the medical school and research center of Virginia Tech. It is located in Roanoke, which is Carilion Health System’s home base. In 2018, Heywood Fralin, a Roanoke native, committed $50 million to support biomedical research at the newly named Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, part of the expanding VTC Roanoke campus.
“Heywood Fralin has already made a tremendous impact on the educational landscape of Virginia,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner. “Now he’s helping take initiatives at the VTC Health Sciences and Technology campus, which already has transformed the Roanoke economy to a new level.”
The Virginia Tech Daily said that, “Heywood Fralin’s foresight for regional cooperation and investment in growing industries has undergirded Roanoke’s economic transformation from a blue-collar railroad hub to a forward-looking, tech-savvy outdoors mountain city.”
The best overview and predictions, however, come from Heywood Fralin himself, who grew up in Roanoke when it was for all intents a one-company town. “I lived in Roanoke when Norfolk and Western was everything,” he said. “The idea that that railroad, now Norfolk Southern, would ever leave Roanoke was unheard of. We all believed it would be here forever. But, as we all know, this economy has moved from an energy-based one to a knowledge-based one. Today we are very reliant on three things: small start-up businesses, which I believe are going to be the future of the entire nation; technology; and health care enterprises that are being created in our area through Virginia Tech and Carilion. The evolution of the VTC School of Medicine and the research institute, and the emergence of a VTC Academic Health Center to help discoveries come to market, are going to be the future of our region.”
For EB-5 investors who also believe that start-up businesses will play a large part in America’s future economy, and who would like to explore southwestern Virginia as a setting for developing or backing one (and as a place to live) Live In America EB-5 would be pleased to work with them in bringing that about. An introductory email to info@LiveInAmerica.us will get us communicating.