Roanoke County leaders shared the town’s accomplishments over the past year and what they hope to accomplish in the future during the annual County State Address on Wednesday.
The morning event hosted by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Green Ridge Recreation Center brought together two keynote speakers: Jason Peters, Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors and Jason Moretz, Chairman of the County School Board.
They covered many topics:
Peters began by praising the county’s recent economic success to the hundreds in attendance, saying the county has recently seen “millions of dollars in investment, the creation of new jobs and a promising way to advance the county’s economic position. “.
He mentioned several health care projects that have been completed or are currently underway, including the completion of the new town and Richfield Living health centers, which he says adds to the county’s appeal by as a place of life for the elderly and their families.
The expansion of healthcare in the Bonsack and Hollins area of the county was also discussed by the chairman of the supervisors, including the inauguration of a new stand-alone LewisGale emergency room in the first, and the completion of a new state-of-the-art Vistar Eye. Center in the latter.
“These new additions support the momentum of the Hollins Center Plan which seeks to improve economic vitality, aesthetics and value in the county’s highest population density area,” he said. “The District of Hollins is an excellent location for business investment, redevelopment opportunities and community prosperity. “
He also noted that Carilion Children’s recently opened inside Tanglewood Shopping Center, after investing more than $ 30 million to turn a 150,000 square foot former retail space into the only hospital in this area. type of the region.
The new location serves not only as a vital medical resource in the region, but also as a catalyst for economic expansion along the Virginia 419 corridor, according to Peters.
He said the projects, including new businesses and restaurants, represent nearly $ 30 million in new private investment in Tanglewood, with $ 40 million expected by the end of 2022.
“These projects align with the county’s strategy to reimagine and redevelop Corridor 419 by focusing on quality of life, supporting the health and well-being of the community, and focusing on improving transportation. According to Peters.
The 419 Town Center plan, anchored by the Tanglewood redevelopment, envisions a mix of retail and living space that is a walkable, connected lifestyle that is not available anywhere else in the county, did he declare.
Transportation needs were also met in the high traffic area, with the help of $ 7 million in state and federal funding.
“Features include an additional exterior lane, sidewalks, crosswalks, cycle paths and a bus shelter. Pedestrian and bicycle lodgings on the 419 will connect users to destinations in Roanoke County and the City of Roanoke, ”he said.
The town of Vinton has also received love for its recent efforts to revitalize the area.
Peters said the county’s only town has launched several redevelopment projects in recent years that have helped “breathe new life into underused properties” in Vinton.
“These unique properties provide residential, dining, business and lodging opportunities in Vinton, while enhancing its economic vitality,” he said. “The recent expansion of Cardinal Glass, the soon to be redeveloped Gish Mill property and a new Bank of Botetourt branch are additional developments that bring new jobs and more opportunities to Vinton. “
Outdoor recreation is another initiative the county is operating and trying to develop, according to Peters.
An Ironman event drew more than 1,600 athletes to the Roanoke Valley, with an estimated impact of $ 3.8 million in the community, he said.
Additionally, investments in the county’s outdoor assets are a way to attract new outdoor events, like the CIAA Cross Country Championships, which just signed a four-year extension to host its race. at Green Hill Park.
Investments in Explore Park have made it a regional outdoor recreational destination, according to Peters.
“New paving, street lights and improved access to the Roanoke River support our citizens’ desire to be active outdoors while making it easier to access park amenities,” he said.
Like most towns in Southwest Virginia, the county has a strong focus on bringing universal broadband to the region, having already used about $ 2 million of CARES Act funding and $ 1.1 million. dollars from Governor Ralph Northam’s Fast Track funding to expand broadband to underserved areas.
“As a result of this initiative, 112 homes and small businesses now have high-speed Internet access, with connections to more than 300 homes and businesses coming soon,” said Peters.
He said the county hopes to secure additional funds from the US bailout to further expand broadband, while also hoping to leverage a portion of the state’s $ 2 billion broadband investments, aimed at to make Virginia one of the first states in the union to achieve universal broadband access by 2024.
While the presidents’ speeches have focused on different topics, there has been a certain crossover when it comes to discussing some of the larger projects that the school system is undertaking.
Peters and Moretz discussed the $ 22.4 million bond measure that will allow Roanoke County public schools to begin much-needed renovations at William Byrd High School.
“It is an exciting project to expand and finally renovate the Terriers house. We look forward to completing this project in the summer of 2023, ”said Moretz.
Vocational and technical education was also at the forefront of Wednesday’s educational discussions.
The supervisory board and the school board have established an advisory committee, made up of 10 citizens, who have been appointed to investigate and make recommendations regarding the needs of our students in the vocational and technical education program.
Peters said he believes investments in CTE help ensure students are “ready to take the opportunity” to integrate their skills into the job market.
Moretz said the school system is focusing on new programs such as the Opportunity Ready certification that students can earn with their high school diplomas.
“This certification verifies that a student has developed the key skills of citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking as described in our graduate profile,” he said.
The school system is looking for higher education institutions and businesses to partner with to help promote the program.
“When you see a future candidate with the Opportunity Ready Certification from Roanoke County Public Schools, you can rest assured that they are a graduate who will be a valuable employee or student and we hope you will grant this. candidate additional consideration. We put our reputation behind this certification, ”said Moretz.
Moretz lamented the need to support the school’s CTE programs by meeting the needs of one of its main learning centers, the Burton Center for Arts and Technology.
“Next year the Burton Center will be 60,” he said. “Although we have older schools, they have been significantly renovated.
“The Burton Center didn’t. Every year, we turn down hundreds of students because we don’t have the space to expand or add classes.
The school system is working with supervisors and the Burton Center Citizen Advisory Committee to seize new opportunities for the center, according to Moretz.
“We understand that workforce development is something your businesses rely on, and we want to be able to help provide that workforce,” he told those in attendance. , many of whom are community business leaders. “This is an ongoing project, and we will need your support to make it a reality.