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While Fralin is looking at the big picture, others are chipping away at a smaller scale. Roanoke County recently debuted a new tool intended to keep the locality from falling off potential employers’ lists for lack of information. The county’s “site selector” software assists business prospects — or more likely, site selection consultants hired to help with the process of finding a potential business location — in identifying the county’s inventory of potential sites. Roanoke County Economic Development Director Jill Loope calls the software a “one-stop shopping technology tool” that offers users a variety of filters and information about availLoope able sites. “Every prospect looks for a reason to eliminate you,” Loope says. “They’re looking at many states, many sites, many communities, so they need a reason to narrow their search. If they can’t get to information in easy, clickable formats, you get eliminated. Our objective is to stay in the game.” The county invested $14,600 in developing the software. The site was launched in early November, and by Thanksgiving it had about 700 hits. It’s not always easy to determine why a company chose not to locate to the Roanoke or New River valleys. It’s harder yet to figure out what the region should do to attract and grow business, particularly when each business has different needs. A manufacturer looks for different things than a tech company, while a business with a handful of employees has different needs than one with 50, or a large employer with 3,000. “My job, when I start working with a prospect, is to read them, to anticipate what people need,” says Beth Doughty, executive director for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “What are they not telling me? I try to anticipate and match them up with what they need before they tell me they need it.” Jewell, Doughty’s counterpart at the NRV Economic Development Photo by Natalee Waters

Business leader Heywood Fralin says the region needs to market itself as a single location when courting economic development.

ROANOKE BUSINESS

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Roanoke Business- Jan. 2016  
Roanoke Business- Jan. 2016  

COVER STORY: Making the short list: To attract economic development, region focuses on behaving like one big place.

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