A Salem company has introduced a new way to care for loved ones – and it’s generating interest from around the world.
N2Care’s MedCottage is a portable, modular medical home designed to make it possible for families to take care of loved ones on their property as an alternative to long-term care facilities.
Shortly after the MedCottage was unveiled in the Roanoke, Virginia Region, the company received national media coverage, leading to thousands of inquiries from people looking for an alternative model for healthcare as 78 million baby boomers prepare for their senior years.
The 12-by-24-foot MedCottage is loaded with technology and amenities for the health, comfort and safety of the elderly or those recovering from illness or injury.
“The MedCottage model for healthcare offers a totally new paradigm,” says the Rev. Kenneth Dupin, founder and CEO of N2Care and the innovator behind the MedCottage. “With a daunting reality looming, we must, as a society, consider every option to take pressure off the system. The MedCottage is such a cost-effective alternative – and baby boomers are ready for new options for aging in place.”
The MedCottage can be purchased or leased and temporarily placed on the caregiving family’s property. Like an RV, it connects to a single-family house's electrical and water supplies.
It’s already authorized for use in Virginia and is designed to comply with local zoning ordinances throughout the nation. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law HB 1307, “Zoning Provisions for Temporary Family Healthcare Structures.”
The Virginia-made MedCottage is equipped with the latest technology to monitor vital signs, filter the air for contaminants and communicate with the outside world via high-tech video and cell phone text technology. Sensors alert caregivers to an occupant's fall, and a computer can remind the occupant to take medications. The technology also provides entertainment, offering a selection of music, reading material and movies.The first MedCottage is now undergoing real-life testing at Virginia Tech. The company hopes to have the first homes available for sale or lease in early 2011.
Botetourt County places in the top 5 "Hidden-Gem Wine Regions" at number 4.
4. Botetourt County, Virginia
Louis and Clark began their fabled journey in Fincastle, Virginia, the town where you should start your own exploration of the three family-run vineyards of Botetourt County. All three sit in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, boasting spectacular views, close proximity to the scenic drives of the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and canoeing on the James River. The vineyards of the area produce a variety of wines, ranging from Rieslings to Cabernet Franc.
Roanoke is about 30 minutes to an hour away, depending on which vineyard you visit first. But it's possible to stay right on Fincastle Vineyard and Winery property, which has its own tranquil bed and breakfast. Check out the wooden hiking trails of the 300-acre Blue Ridge Vineyard before packing a lunch and heading for the Virginia Mountain Vineyards, which welcomes picnickers in its gazebo. If you plan your trip in the fall, stop by Ikenberrry Orchards for a variety of apples, a corn maze, and homemade apple butter and preserves.
4. Botetourt County, Virginia
3. Truro, Cape Cod
2. Bloomington, Indiana
1. Hill Country, Texas
If you listen closely, you can often hear echoes in the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the Roanoke, Virginia, Region.
Sure, you’ll hear birds chatter, hikers murmur or mountain bikes clatter. But more and more you’ll hear music.
Bluegrass. Classical. Country. Rock. Gospel. Jazz. Blues. Funk. Hip-hop – you name it. Whatever your taste, we’ve got it here.
A combination of new venues, diverse demographics, affordable entertainment, community leadership and proximity to music roots are all reasons why the Roanoke Region is drawing artists from throughout the nation – and growing throngs of fans.
“Music lovers in Roanoke are creating a culture that transcends this region,” explains Robyn Schon, assistant general manager of the Roanoke Civic Center, which in the past few months has hosted diverse artists ranging from Celtic Woman to Keith Urban to ZZ Top and Dokken.
“Bands and artists of every genre are surfacing in this community; music venues are taking greater financial risks by booking more eclectic performers; and the demographics in this area are diverse enough to ensure that every genre of music will have a decent audience,” Schon says. “As a result, the region is being recognized for the artistry and diversity of the music available here.”
And the music isn’t just in large venues. There’s music on mountains, at wineries, at festivals, in clubs and restaurants, in concert halls seating a few dozen, even on top of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“Live music is always central to the perception of whether a community has a healthy cultural scene or not,” Schon says. “I think the fact that people are talking more about the increased number of concerts, the variety of music venues hosting good music, and the diversity of music genres makes our music scene thrive.”
A big factor, local music experts say, is the rise of a creative community dedicated to putting the region on the music map. Developer Ed Walker built the Kirk Avenue Music Hall, a downtown venue with a no-nonsense interior that’s attracting both up-and-comers and industry veterans.
Music promoter Gary Jackson, who brings in acts for Kirk Avenue Music Hall, credits live-music lovers, transplants like himself and long-time residents such as Walker, restaurant owner Jason Martin and Dylan Locke, the artistic director at Jefferson Center who owns DLP Concerts with his wife, Heather Krantz.
“There are many who are very engaged in bringing talent to the region,” Jackson says.
Through Jackson’s nationwide connections, he’s moved music from beyond the walls and into the community. The initial Down by Downtown music festival attracted thousands to Roanoke for an eclectic mix of rock, pop, jazz, classical, hip-hop, Americana and more throughout the city, culminating in an outdoor riverside concert.
“This one could be huge when it’s all said and done,” Jackson says.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson Center continues to attract sold-out shows. The building also hosts the Music Lab, a recording studio for budding musicians.
And even long-time organizations such as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra are mixing it up. The RSO is bringing in Liza Minelli, Blake Shelton and Boz Skaggs, among others, to introduce symphony to different audiences.
“We believe strongly that the greater role of a symphony orchestra in any community is to serve the community with great live performances,” says Beth Pline, executive director. “Our versatility, and the caliber of our musicians and programming, means we can bring a unique and powerful experience to music lovers of many kinds. … People need these experiences -- they want and need live music!"
Then there’s the influence of the Crooked Road, Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, which comes through the Franklin County area of the region.
“The Crooked Road is a big reason that the Roanoke Region is being put on the map,” Schon says. “Bluegrass, folk, Americana -- those are the roots of this region. It's no longer uncool to be a young person and listen to bluegrass.”
The Crooked Road was established in 2004 to promote tourism and economic development by celebrating Southwest Virginia's bluegrass and old-time mountain music traditions. The winding, 250-mile corridor covers 10 counties and three cities. Its new executive director, Jack Hinshelwood, is an award-winning fiddler from the greater Roanoke area.
The recent high notes are prompting local music supporters to think big. Is the region on the cusp of a true music destination?
“Yes,” promoter Jackson says emphatically. “I see a vibrant music scene that’s alive with people and great music all year round.”
Call him Roanoke’s Outdoor Man. Pete Eshelman spends his days promoting events that capitalize on the natural strengths of this Blue Ridge Mountain city. And why not? There are rivers to raft, trails to bike, mountains to climb, and caves to spelunk. And all that activity fits nicely with some of the most powerful drivers of the region’s economy — health care and education.
“Everyone agrees that’s part of what makes this area so great,” says Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “But it was a story that wasn’t being told.”
Roanoke has spent much of its history trying to be like someplace else — Charlotte, Richmond or almost any other place that people won’t call a gritty railroad town. Maybe that phase of the city’s life is over. “I think we seem to be more comfortable with ourselves than we were 25 years ago,” says former Roanoke County administrator Elmer Hodges.
The city’s emerging image as an outdoor mecca has encouraged the growth of number of businesses catering to adventuresome tourists, such as outfitters and bicycle shops. The buzz about the region’s quality of life also is helping it attract and retain highly trained professionals.
Eshelman’s job is to tell Roanoke’s new story. He organizes and promotes events such as the Blue Ridge Marathon. In April the race drew 942 runners and had an estimated economic impact of nearly $350,000 (in spending on hotel rooms, meals, gasoline, etc.). Next year, Eshelman says, “We’re actually adding some elevation to it. We’re actually billing it as America’s toughest road marathon.”
Eshelman also organized the Gear Junkie Treasure hunt, which brought 300 people from 15 states to Virginia’s Explore Park in July to traipse around the woods with compasses, maps and GPS devices trying to win their share of $40,000 worth of gear.
As another facet of his job, Eshelman tends to a website, roanokeoutside.com. It provides maps of 75 trails and information about caves, rivers, museums, birding, disc golf, wineries, farmers’ markets and other attractions.
This fall, Roanoke Outside plans to host an adventure tourism entrepreneur workshop. Shawn Hash probably could teach the course. Two decades ago, Hash and his brother, Tyrell, started an adventure tourism business, Tangent Outfitters. “We had a Toyota truck, which we still have, and two canoes and four mountain bikes,” Shawn Hash says.
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They call them "Zymers" and say it's great to be one.
Denmark-based biotech firm Novozymes and subsidiary Novozymes North America notched high marks recently on two separate ranking gauges.
Novozymes operates Novozymes Biologicals, a wholly owned subsidiary with facilities in Roanoke County and in Salem.
The rankings seemingly portray Novozymes as a corporation that values both the company's employees and the principles of sustainability.
Entrepreneur Magazine published this week a list of companies selected by the Great Place to Work Institute as, well, great places to work.
Novozymes North America ranked 17th on the list of medium-sized companies.
The accompanying blurb reports: "Employees are called 'Zymers' and one of [the company's] foundational principles is to 'Make it Great to Be A Zymer.' "
Zymer perks can range from bonuses to free snacks, from comparatively generous health insurance coverage to massage. The company encourages employees to volunteer in the community.
Novozymes Biologicals has a total of about 140 workers in Roanoke County and Salem.
In addition, parent Novozymes harvested corporate recognition again this year from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the biotechnology sector's "sustainability leader." Novozymes describes itself as "the world leader in bioinnovation" whose core business focuses on industrial enzymes, microorganisms and biopharmaceutical ingredients.
Novozymes' regional operation produces microbial-based products that take on household, industrial, and agricultural problems with, the company says, environmentally safe technology. Applications include odor control, drain line and septic tank maintenance, grease removal, carpet cleaning and wastewater treatment.
Each year, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index reportedly evaluates the world's 2,500 largest companies on more than 20 indicators, such as corporate governance and eco-efficiency.
It is said to highlight "the companies best prepared to seize the opportunities and manage the risks associated with economic, environmental and social developments."
And what is "eco-efficiency?"
One definition suggests it refers to a "management philosophy that aims at minimizing ecological damage while maximizing efficiency of the firm's production processes."
The local Novozymes operation has been especially supportive of the Roanoke River Greenway network, donating money and time. It also agreed to support a riverfront project after pleading guilty in 2008 to dumping wastes that ended up in Mason Creek.
RADFORD -- After three years of engineering and work, the first train to travel the Heartland Corridor through Southwest Virginia stopped shortly before noon today for a celebration and ribbon-cutting.
The first train to ride the route left the Port of Hampton Roads on its way to Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago with both domestic and imported goods.
At Radford, the 140-box train parked outside a Norfolk Southern Corp. celebration attended by dozens of transportation, state and railroad officials.
The Heartland Corridor project is an effort to increase intermodal freight capacity by raising clearances in 28 tunnels on a NS line. The first phase of the tunnel work began in October 2007. Using the corridor, trains will be able to shave off about 200 miles and up to a day’s transit time between the East Coast and the Midwest. Currently, double-stack trains must take routes by way of Harrisburg, Pa., or Knoxville, Tenn.
Biomedical and biotechnical jobs led the region in growth last year, outpacing all other sectors.
The trend for growth is expected to continue, according to an analysis by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission.
"The industry is fast becoming a strong and regionally significant engine for growth and prosperity," the report said.
Expanding on the region's growth in biosciences is partly tied to the maturation of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, which officially opened Wednesday with little fanfare.
The study showed that from 2006 to 2009, the region's overall rate of employment decreased 5 percent. However, employment in the biomedical and biotechnical sector increased nearly 8.9 percent during the same time.
"It's been quite dramatic in terms of the data," said John Hull, regional economic development manager for the commission and the person responsible for analyzing the trends for the report. "Things are happening here that aren't happening elsewhere."
Even as the sector has been identified as a significant area of economic growth potential nationally, the region's growth outpaced the nation's. Nationally, employment between 2006 and 2009 remained nearly stagnant, decreasing 0.29 percent, according to the report.
Building on the region's development in the biosciences means continuing to focus attention on things such as the new research institute, Hull said.
But for some in the community, the institute has seemingly taken a back seat to its partner the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, which began classes in August.
"We've heard a lot of talk about the medical school, but we hadn't heard a lot of people talking about the research institute," said Cory Donovan, executive director of the NewVa Corridor Technology Council. "A lot of people didn't know anything about it."
Donovan and other business leaders are looking to change the relative low profile of the institute, because they are convinced the institute is a key to the cultivating the region's economic growth in biomedicine, biotechnology and health care.
"People are just realizing that this is a huge opportunity and this is where a lot of the growth and job opportunities and economic development is going to come from," Donovan said.
In July, Donovan sought to galvanize the technology community about the potential by giving the podium to the research institute's executive director during the NCTC's monthly breakfast gathering.
It was a record crowd of nearly 150 people. After the presentation the hotel conference room was buzzing.
Michael Friedlander had been in his position as executive director of the institute for only six weeks and yet he had sparked an enthusiasm among the crowd that native business executives have long tried to elicit.
"We just got a glimpse of the future of Roanoke, and it's exciting," said Mary Miller, president of Blacksburg-based Interactive Design and Development Inc.
Friedlander ended his talk pleading for community support.
"We need community involvement," he said. "We can't do this in isolation."
An immediate response came in the form of a line as attendees with business cards in hand waited to speak to him.
Miller, who is also president of the NCTC board, said the institute allows the region to import an intelligence base that can help to stimulate more work force opportunities.