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A $64 million question for the Roanoke and New River valleys is actually $80 million or more

What if we told you that more than 1,200 jobs — virtually all paying well over the local median wage — were coming to the Roanoke and New River valleys?

The governor couldn’t get here fast enough to cut that ribbon. Local government leaders would clamor to speak at the announcement and share some of the glory. Remember all the excitement over the Deschutes Brewery? That was supposed to be just 108 workers. By contrast, the 1,268 jobs we’re talking about here seem a much firmer bet.

So where is the excitement? Oh, it’s there — but before we get too far along, let’s provide some context on how we know about these yet-to-be-created jobs and what might stand in the way of them ever happening.

Last year, Advance Auto — a company founded in Roanoke in 1932 — announced it was moving its headquarters to Raleigh, North Carolina. That was neither a shock nor a surprise. The company’s CEO had made his office at a “regional corporate headquarters” in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 2007. In practical terms, the corporate headquarters moved a long time ago. The bigger news was that Advance was creating 435 jobs in Raleigh — technology jobs paying an average of $106,000 per year. Why wasn’t Advance creating those jobs in Roanoke? Simple. The company said it was a lot easier to find tech workers in Raleigh than in Roanoke.

On the one hand, this was merely stating the obvious. On the other hand, this was “a wake-up call” for those trying to build a technology sector in the Roanoke and New River valley, according to Greg Feldman, president of Skyline Capital Strategies in Roanoke and one of the founders of the Valleys Innovation Council. If Advance didn’t think it could find 435 tech workers in the region, just how many tech workers are available? How many would we need to truly grow the economy here? And what would it take to make sure we had enough? Those are questions the Valleys Innovation Council — a non-profit formed in 2018 to help promote an “innovation economy” in the region — set out to answer. It now has the answers to some of those questions, along with a new set of questions that business and political leaders in the region need to answer.

To learn more, check out the whole article below.