Howard, building business and saving lives

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Howard opened ARCpoint Labs in Salem in 2013. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Howard opened ARCpoint Labs in Salem in 2013. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Jeff Howard’s life has never been boring. After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to the area, looking for a change of scenery.

With no money in his pocket, he lived out of a tent, only dressing up to go to job interviews, and quitting six months after landing one to backpack across 26 countries. After returning to school and graduating from Virginia Tech with an MBA concentration in international business, he worked with a Fortune 500 tractor equipment dealership, which he said was unsatisfying both personally and professionally.

“By being on the road, I lacked a sense of community,” Howard said. “I couldn’t be in the choir because I’d miss all the choir practices and I was in and out of my kids’ lives. I started looking for business opportunities, and decided to go with a franchise.”

Now, over 30 years later, he is the owner of ARCpoint Labs in Salem, one of the fasting growing franchises in its field. The small business, located on East Main Street, was opened in 2013 and is operated by a team of three employees. It continues to grow substantially each year, offering more services, which are often on the cutting edge of technology, and expanding its list of clients.

Currently, the lab conducts drug testing for all Virginia Tech student athletes, as well as the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County Social Services, the City of Salem, the City of Radford and a variety of different companies in the area. The lab also conducts DNA, wellness and alcohol testing, as well as pre-employment/ background checks and various lab tests, such as physical screenings for life insurance companies.

“We’ve attracted a lot of companies that have never had programs, and they’ve discovered that they can get a discount on their workers’ compensation premium for having a drug-free workplace,” Howard said. “It’s actually a Virginia law, and not many people know about it. They tend to find that by not hiring people with substance abuse problems, they’re more productive workers and are not late or absent as much.”

It is one of the first labs in the area to offer personalized pharmacogenetic profiles, which allow patients to understand how they will react to a drug by first testing a cheek swab. Howard said he expects the test to become more popular in labs and doctors’ offices, as it protects patients from becoming victims to side effects.

“We send samples to a lab and they analyze DNA and how your body would process 120 of the most common medications prescribed today,” Howard said. “Then it will categorize those as red, yellow or green, like a stoplight, based on how well your body will metabolize a medication.”

“Doctors have been experimenting because they’ve never really had a road map,” he added. “With the mapping of the human genome, we now know which drugs are metabolized by an individual’s genetics.”

Howard said the most rewarding aspect of the job is building relationships with clients, and serving as a wake-up call for those struggling.

“I was trying to find something where I could not only make a living, but make an impact on people’s lives in some positive way,” Howard said. “A lot of times people think of drug testing as a negative thing, but we’ve had cases where we’ve identified people who have had a problem at work. I tested one guy at 3:30 in the afternoon and he had a blood alcohol content of .1.

“When that happens at work, for a lot of people that is a wake-up call,” Howard said. “They know their job is on the line and they have a serious problem. But it’s better than having someone cause an accident.”

He has settled down, but he hasn’t slowed down, and is constantly networking. He is involved in several community service activities, such as Pathfinders for Greenways, Family Promise of Roanoke Valley, and the Roanoke Valley Society for Human Resource Management. He is also a volunteer Ambassador for the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, a Youth Exchange Officer for the Rotary Club of Salem, and a Big Brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia.

“What we do affects lives,” added CEO Felix Mirando. “He’s involved in testing for the department of social services. Those are areas where you have people’s lives in your hand. Him being involved in that is key in how he gives back to the community.”