Edmee CR Hasler
In a concise and insightful address, Martha Hooker, chair of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, painted a vivid picture of Roanoke County’s current triumphs and future targets during the State of the County address on Dec. 5. Hosted by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Green Ridge Recreation Center, the annual event highlighted significant accomplishments and outlined ambitious goals across economic development, recreation and transportation.
Martha Hooker commenced by branding Roanoke as an inviting hub for families, outdoor enthusiasts, career seekers, and business ventures. Reflecting on 2023, she highlighted significant economic achievements.
Wells Fargo’s announcement of a $87 million investment to expand its Plantation Road customer support center, is a major milestone. With the creation of1100 jobs, Wells Fargo will become Roanoke County’s largest employer. Earlier this year, the Galen College of Nursing, opened inside the Mettis Plaza in the Oak Grove Center. The 34,000 square location “represents a $4 million investment, bringing new job growth and more than 100 plus more students to this high visibility corridor.“ Hooker remarked. Vistar Eye Center opened a 26,000 square foot facility that gives citizens top eye health care. The realization of these institutions cements Roanoke County’s commitment to exceptional education and the advancement of health care.
Wood Haven Technology Park received a boost with an $820,000 award, spearheaded by Congressman Morgan Griffith’s efforts. Coupled with $670,000 from the Western Virginia Water Authority, this marked another stride in economic advancement by adding water utilities to Wood Haven.
Carilion Mental Health’s $11.5 million investment in Tanglewood Mall enriches healthcare in the Route 419 corridor, drawing 800 weekly visitors. The Route 419 Corridor also saw growth with the addition of new retailers, Chili’s, Skechers, Chophouse and Popeyes, contributing to the county’s strategy for revitalization.
Addressing transportation, Hooker detailed ongoing projects valued at $320 million, including the ongoing widening of Route 81, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail pedestrian bridge, and the near completion of the Buck Mountain Road roundabout. There are also a number of transportation studies, stemming from the approval of the route 460 Land Use & Connectivity Study, aimed at road safety and aesthetics.
The popular McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle provided over 1500 rides in 2023, receiving extra funding for expansion in 2024, with new stops planned in Salem and near the Dragon’s Tooth trailhead parking lot. Noteworthy projects, such as the West Roanoke River Greenway, reinforced Roanoke’s commitment to outdoor adventure. Other worthy mentions are Explore Park’s hosting of the USA Cycling race. This event brought in more than 200 athletes and volunteers, and made a positive economic impact of over $2 million. The Successful T-rex Tavern Stage Summer Music Series brought in more than 9,000 people to see life size animatronic dinosaurs and an additional 12,200 guests came to the music concerts. Last but not least, 53,000 visitors came to the park last winter to see the award-winning Illumilight.
Tax Reduction and Future Plans:|
The Board of Supervisors approved historic tax reductions in 2023, saving citizens and businesses nearly $8 million. This marked the first change in personal tax since 1982 and the first change in real estate tax since 2007. Looking ahead, Hooker unveiled the County’s 200 plan, outlining goals for community planning areas and future projects. Plans for 2024 include a runway extension at Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport and the Route 419 and Route 220 Diverging Diamond Interchange construction. Expanding internet access to rural communities stands as another pivotal goal for next year.
A top commitment is the board’s dedication to ensuring a safe and secure learning environment. In the past 15 months alone, Roanoke County has secured an impressive $1.1 million, earmarked to fund 16 school resource officers. Beyond safety, the educational endeavors have been recognized with notable accolades. Roanoke County schools was the recipient of the Virginia Innovative Practice Exemplar Award. Furthermore, collaborative efforts with Roanoke City and Salem public schools have resulted in the joint reception of the prestigious Virginia Innovative Practice Award. These recognitions foster innovative and effective teaching practices that set a benchmark for excellence.
In an April signing ceremony, the board solidified a groundbreaking agreement with Roanoke County public schools, securing a funding allocation of $130 million. This historic commitment demonstrates dedication to providing resources and a foundation enriching education. The visionary projects in the pipeline include the construction of a state-of-the-art career and technical education center, along with the strategic renovation of Glen Cove and WE Cundiff schools. These initiatives reflect a proactive approach, ensuring educational facilities evolve to meet the dynamic needs of all students.
A prideful reflection:
In her concluding remarks, Hooker expressed pride in the collective achievements of the past year. She emphasized the importance of working together to embrace opportunities, fostering growth, and sharing in the prosperity of the community.