National magazine features Roanoke for attracting and retaining millenials


ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – A national publication is making waves in the Roanoke Valley.

Politco magazine featured an article about how the city of Roanoke was started by the train industry, but had to make several changes to continue to bring in people after its decline.

Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill said he is pleased to know Roanoke is making national headlines as a city that is able to transition from a locomotive industry and diversify its economy.

Morrill said the city had to transition from “trains to brains” and they credit part of the transition as having Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute to attract younger people to the area.

He also said they had to revamp the downtown area by adding more restaurants, pubs and cafes to make it more vibrant to millennials.

About a decade ago, the United States census counted about 15 people living in downtown and that number now is about 2,000.

Morrill hopes the article will attract more millennials to the area.

“Many people still out there don’t know Roanoke, so we have to actively tell our story, what’s great about Politico, it really is a young audience, in fact I told some of my older friends if they read they’d be cool, so it captures that young audience which are the folks who we are really trying to get here because they are our workforce,” Morrill said.

Members in the Roanoke Regional Partnership said they had to figure out ways how to better market themselves.

They came up with the “Beer, Bikes and Brains,” an idea they’ve been marketing for seven years to retain talent.

It includes marketing the outdoor events like the Go Outside Festival and Blue Ridge Marathon as well as showcasing new companies like Deschutes coming to the area.

‘You can really see a change, I think you see a change in people’s attitudes, people’s feelings about where they live and even if they left, the affection they feel for their hometown,” Beth Doughty, the Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Tourism leaders said it’s those qualities that will bring more people to the area.

“The people of this region has so much to be proud of and Roanoke has progressed so much in the last five years you see the beauty of Elmwood Park,” Landon Howard, the President of Visit Virginia Blue Ridge said.

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