Get2KnowNoke’s Talent Ambassador Program: An Insider’s Look at Living and Working in the Roanoke Region

One of the best ways to tell the story of the Roanoke Region is from within.  Thrive 2027, the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s five-year plan, calls for the attraction and retention of in-demand talent and, specifically, for strategies to foster greater diversity in the region’s workforce and leadership.

Through our selected, influential group of talent ambassadors, we intend to build and expand our talent pool to establish a community that represents the wide variety of backgrounds, careers, and lifestyles in our area. The goal of this network is to be as inclusive as possible to all professionals who seek to make our region home. Our talent ambassadors are a representation of our community in the region and will help individuals who are evaluating our market to connect locally with diverse professionals who can relate to their needs. Our talent ambassadors bridge the gap in information and aid in community building and leadership development.

 

“I agreed to be a talent ambassador because I love living in Roanoke. Second, I love working here. Third, I want others to consider visiting, then moving here. Our region gets better as we grow and diversify.” Bonnie Chavez, Talent Ambassador

For the year ahead, talent ambassadors will be involved and engaged with the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s plans for Get2KnowNoke and messaging surrounding talent attraction. We know these individuals will be strong crusaders for attracting and keeping the finest talent here in our region based on their innovative ideas, community following, and excitement surrounding the growing region. Our ambassadors are already involved in community engagement, outreach, and attraction through a variety of outlets.

“The talent ambassador network is a unique group of individuals that all bring different experiences, interests, and goals to our community. In order for our region to continue to grow, we must network with a purpose, including business-to-business relationships and investing in personal growth opportunities.” Mary Katherine Stahl, Talent Ambassador

Talent ambassadors are key outlets for sharing and advertising Get2KnowNoke’s events and initiatives. This advertising will continue, as all talent ambassadors are expected to influence participation in events including the Experience Conference, Roanoke Regional Professionals Network, the Summer Internship Program, and other opportunities for talent engagement in the region. Ambassador attendance has been strong at all events this calendar year and shows the excitement and willingness of the community to support the Partnership’s talent-growth strategy.

“I feel my strong suit is making connections and helping others make connections. I feel that when you want to keep people around you must connect with them. Jobs and amenities can be replicated, but relationships are hard to replicate.” – John Park, Talent Ambassador

One of the group’s priorities has been to engage the remote community. There are opportunities being developed to create more spaces for the remote community to grow and engage, but we hope to do more.  One priority of Thrive 2027 is to advocate for remote work here in the region but also to integrate those professionals into our community. With several remote-working talent ambassadors, we now have influential professionals to help advocate for the best resources for remote workers.

“I became a talent ambassador because I wanted to meet people I may not have crossed paths with otherwise. I also wanted to make sure work-from-home professionals were well represented and that we continue to attract remote workers to the region.” Courtney Proffitt, Talent Ambassador

To learn more about the program and the talent ambassadors themselves, please check out our website. And if you have a story to share, we want to hear from you! Are you proud and excited about our region? Do you want to encourage others to move here for all we have to offer? Please email Taylor Johnson at taylor@roanoke.org.

Careers and Culture – Chris Runyon

Chris Runyon is a public relations and communications manager with the Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia. He is a graduate of Patrick Henry High School and James Madison University. Chris resides in Roanoke City with his wife and new puppy.  We asked Chris some questions about what brought him back to the Roanoke Region, and a few of his favorite things about living here.


Where were you before you returned to the Roanoke Region? What was the catalyst for your return? 

For six years, I lived at 10,000 feet in a small town outside Breckenridge, Colorado. Most Colorado transplants speak ill of their hometowns; that was never my story. I’ve always liked where I grew up. But it wasn’t until I was at the annual GO Fest event during one of my visits home I began to experience a strong sense of community and excitement that Roanoke was on the cusp of something special. I wanted in early and ultimately moved back to be closer to my family, who still lives nearby. 

How do you think the Roanoke Region has shifted or transitioned in the last 10 years? 

Roanoke was built around the railroad, with Norfolk Southern playing a significant role in the surrounding area. It’s been neat to see Roanoke transition from “trains to brains” with the healthcare industry and strategic partnerships with local universities adding opportunities for our community. With more students and young professionals increasing the demand, small businesses answered by filling leases of long-term vacancies in downtown Roanoke. The revitalization of downtown Roanoke truly brought life back into this city. 

What do you think makes this region attractive from a livability perspective? 

The cost of living and access to outdoor recreation are two things that make this region incredibly attractive. I came to terms quickly that where I lived in Colorado wasn’t feasible to start a family and live comfortably. Colorado residents frequently say they’re richer in different ways. I’d say why choose? You can have both right here in the Greater Roanoke area.

Currently, what is your favorite food and beverage establishment in the region you think people should try? 

I support businesses that are investing in their backyard. Go check out Bloom Restaurant & Wine Bar and RND Coffee Lounge. Not only are they putting out some fantastic food and drinks, but they’re the change we want to see in our community. 

Any words of wisdom, advice, or encouragement to other “boomerangs” considering a move back to the region? 

Don’t wait. The secret is out. 

What do you think about the real estate market here and current revitalization projects in our communities? 

I love the way neighborhoods are becoming more micro-communities. Wasena’s main street revitalization project has trickled over to Old Southwest which is also squeezed by downtown’s revival. Just look at Day Avenue; every house is getting flipped. Downtown Vinton proper has seen incredible growth. Of course, any neighborhoods close to Roanoke Memorial or access to Greenways and Blueways will be the next opportunity for real estate investment.