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A Farewell Message from Stuart Mease

Stuart Mease
Stuart Mease

I would like to thank the City of Roanoke and all the people I served in this economic development role for the region. I will be taking a position in Blacksburg with one of the fastest growing, new economy technology firms in the region – Rackspace Email and Apps- as its recruiting manager (www.rackspace.com).

As I transition, I was asked by the Star-Sentinel to comment on the future state of our economic development efforts in Roanoke. First and foremost, we need support for a broad regional economic development strategy – one that focuses on traditional-based (attraction and retention), place-based (quality of life amenities like the outdoors and retail), and people-based (entrepreneurs, job seekers, continuing education, college students and young professionals) forms of economic development. A diversified portfolio is essential in the rapidly changing world of economic development.

Second, future regional job growth must come from the emergence of new businesses which will take a 10+ year commitment by our governments and elected officials. Unfortunately, not enough resources, support, patience or attention are being given to start-up businesses, which generate most of the region’s new jobs. Any economic development strategy ignoring entrepreneurs and start-ups is flawed.

Third, people continue to say there are no jobs in the region. It’s a myth. At our June job fair, 35 employers had 638 job openings. Ultimately, our workforce must either acquire new skills to qualify for these jobs or temporarily accept these positions that are beneath them. It’s that simple.

Finally, Roanoke must become more tech savvy because the internet is the ultimate level-playing field for rural communities to compete globally. We should have the same focus, if not more, on the information highway rather than the interstate highway. Our goal is every business and individual blogging and using social media to build our online presence (www.handshake20.com).

Again, thank you for allowing me to serve you. Now, I ask that you serve your community in one or more of the following ways to continue the positive momentum:

• Join one of the four groups of the Creative Connectors. (www.thecreativeconnectors.com).

• Use Chmura Economics free database for job seekers (www.roanokeva.gov/connect) and for businesses (www.roanokeva.gov/businesseq).

• Start a blog at Twitter.com. Use Fwix.com. Finally create a Facebook profile.

• Watch JobQuest on BlueRidge PBS, Tuesday, Sept 8 at 7 pm.

• Attend our Fall Job Fair at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center, September 18 from 9-12 noon.

• Meet the technology community and the Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School as part of the NCTC’s Demo Day on September 18 from 2-5 pm at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center.

• Participate in the Entrepreneur Express workshop November 6 by registering at www.vastartup.org.

(Ed. note: The Roanoke Star-Sentinel staff wishes Stuart Mease the best of luck in his new venture, which is closer to his home and family. For the past several years he has been heavily involved with attracting and retaining young professionals as a member of Roanoke City’s economic development department. )

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