Lawrence Companies: A First-Hand Account of Company Culture Transformation

If you’re not familiar, Lawrence Companies is a 100 percent employee-owned business headquartered in the Roanoke Region. The company provides regional logistics, transportation, equipment, moving, maintenance, and upfitting that can offer seamless support to any business with product management, storage, transportation, and more. After spending about ten minutes waiting in their warehouse for a meeting with a potential customer looking to relocate to the region, one thing was clear…these folks run a tight ship.

Lawrence Companies is the largest employee-owned business in Virginia and North Carolina.

But what you might not realize without spending some time with their employees, is that they have done a ton of work to create a positive, supportive, and inclusive company culture worthy of celebrating. Get2KnowNoke’s director of talent attraction, Julia Boas, had the pleasure of talking in depth about this transformation with the Lawrence Companies director of HR, Aaron Kelly.

Aaron has to be one of the most positive and contagiously energetic people in Roanoke, and it became quickly apparent that his passion and dedication to the people of Lawrence is a reflection of the overall culture being developed there. Learn from their efforts from his first-hand account below.

Aaron Kelly – Director of Human Resources at Lawrence Companies First-Hand Narrative of their Cultural Transformation

Morgan Byrd and her apprentice team at the Apprenticeship Signing Event at the Salem Red Sox.

Written by Director of Human Resources, Aaron Kelly
Here at Lawrence Companies, we are currently in year two of a complete cultural overhaul.  We found that prior administration advocated for a “head down, shut up” mentality. 

I’m even willing to share that at the beginning of my career with Lawrence two and a half years ago, the work ethic here was less than desirable. Upon the exit of our prior administration, and after the acclimation of our new senior leadership team, our CEO Warren Groseclose recognized the need to take care of our workforce. We immediately got to work and started formulating what would work best for our business, and more importantly, our people. 

Through meetings, phone calls, and field trips, we narrowed down our search to just one: Innerwill Leadership Institute. Innerwill is a sister company of Luck Stone, based out of Manakin Sabot, VA.  In a similar case study, Charlie Luck, Owner of Luck Stone, recognized that the business of turning big rocks into little rocks was profitable, but the culture and workplace environment could be a challenge. As we exchanged information and coordinated these meetings with our senior leadership team, we wanted to ensure that this wasn’t just a flash in the pan or another flavor of the week.  We have employees who have been with Lawrence Companies for 40-plus years, and we needed to honor their commitment.

The Lawrence Companies Picnic blends family and community. Recognizing our wins as a business.

We owe it to each and every one of them to provide positive, sustainable results in the world of workplace culture. Our very first session was not for the faint at heart. We were quickly told to look in the mirror, and as a company, atone for our sins. Simultaneously, we launched an employee engagement survey to get a pulse from our employees. Long story short, we stunk out loud. As Dr. Tom Epperson, our session leader explained, “That is OK! You have to start from somewhere!”. 

From rock bottom, we painstakingly formed our list of inefficiencies or blind spots to the tune of about 30 action items. Over several weeks, we managed to revisit, revise, and combine some of these action items until we ended up with 5 major bullet points. These cornerstones are what make up the foundation of our servant-based leadership approach. 

Lawrence Companies 2023 Revamped Approach to Leadership:

CEO Warren Groseclose entertains the crowd with excellent company raffles.

These tenants aid us in our day-to-day decisions, including (but not limited to): 

  1. We Take the Time to Listen
  2. We Earn Trust
  3. We Play as a Team
  4. We Instill a Sense of Ownership
  5. We Help Others Grow

Encouraging thought-provoking intentional conversations. Playing as a team, not just as a formality, but truly as an extension of one another. Helping others grow. This leadership model takes out the “I” and celebrates the “Us”. This entails building on one another, encouraging a degree of stretching and exploring within your work experience, and questioning why and why not. Lastly, earning trust. 

This one, among all, does not come overnight. We illustrate this by truly leading by example, doing what we say we are going to do AND following up. Equitable leadership requires you to be consistent AND fair across the board and accept responsibility for your own shortcomings. At the end of the day, we’re all human.

Keith Goad, Sales Representative at Lawrence Companies, knows everyone…including Mugsy.

In my twelve years of human resources, this is the first company I have ever worked for that admits its shortcomings and realizes that perfect is impossible. Not only have we learned a lot about how to reconstruct our business to better serve our employees, we also looked at our active bench of next-generation leaders. Who was going to replace me when it was time for me to make a move or retire?  This observation launched Lawrence Companies into phase two of our cultural rebranding. 

Through identification and some very intentional conversation, we enlisted our Next Generation of Leaders.  These individuals expressed interest or possessed characteristics that directly aligned with the business model and the servant leadership tenants.  Without wasting any time, we got these individuals enrolled in the second round of our Innerwill training. 

During this training, the training wheels were slowly removed and I’m so proud to announce, that we have people within our business who are hungry for growth, ready for more, and have flexibility in regards to stretching their capability.   I guess what I’m trying to say is that times are different. The workforce is ever-changing.

During National Technician Appreciation Week we recognize our team members and raise a few smiles amongst our group.

To be successful, you have to be all in! 

The aforementioned leadership redirection is just one story of many in our books of creating a sustainable and enjoyable workplace for our employees.  Whether we are talking about our Next Generation of Leaders, our Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, our or Federally Accredited Apprenticeship program, Lawerence Companies continues to a career that recognizes, influences, and celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Lastly, I am grateful on a personal level.  As an individual who was formally diagnosed on the Autism spectrum at age 18, it means everything to me that Lawrence Companies sees me for who I am, and my continued capabilities.

Connect with Aaron Kelly to ask questions about positive human resource pathways, getting buy-in from leadership, and their company culture. Or reach out to Lawrence Companies today for job opportunities. They are regularly hiring for drivers, technicians, and support team members.

First Annual Talent Summit with State and Regional Leaders Hosted at Roanoke College

The beautiful Roanoke College campus in Salem, Virginia surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The beautiful Roanoke College campus in Salem, Virginia surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The region’s most influential leaders on talent attraction and retention are gathering at the 2024 Talent Summit on March 7, 2024, at Roanoke College. The goal of this event is to align the efforts of employers, higher education, workforce and economic development, and government as they collaborate to develop talent from within, form meaningful connections with students in our region, and attract top-tier talent to area employers.

As communities across the country are battling to attract, train, and retain top-tier talent, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Roanoke Region, and New River Valley are working intentionally and collectively to set themselves apart from the competition. The summit will help leaders identify gaps in the talent pipeline and help build better connections between education and industry.

The summit will be held inside the Morris M. Cregger Center’s performance arena on the Roanoke College campus from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is open to representatives from government, higher education, C-suite management, and human resource and marketing professionals. The event will lead with a welcome from state leadership followed by a keynote from former Virginia delegate and president of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, Kirk Cox.

Inside the state-of-the-art Morris M. Cregger Center, the primary venue for the first annual Talent Summit

“We are thrilled to host the inaugural Talent Summit at Roanoke College, bringing together leaders from various sectors to shape the future of talent in Virginia. Through meaningful panel discussions and sessions, we aim to equip professionals with practical knowledge that drives positive change and nurtures talent attraction pipelines. Roanoke College is honored to play a pivotal role in advancing discussions on higher education’s role in catering to industry needs and empowering employers to actively contribute to shaping the future workforce,” remarked Frank Shushok Jr., Ph.D., president of Roanoke College. “Our collaboration with esteemed partners and the support from initiatives like Growth4VA and GO Virginia highlight the collective effort invested in creating talent pathways that benefit our region’s employers.”

Mid-morning the summit will host a panel of higher education leaders, moderated by Dr. Shushok of Roanoke College, with major colleges and universities from the region represented, followed by optional lunch and learn sessions regarding employer success stories, communication best practices, and building partnerships. These sessions will provide human resources, marketing, and management professionals with practical knowledge they can implement within their organizations to effect change and develop meaningful talent attraction pipelines.

“While the Roanoke Region is ahead of many localities when it comes to talent attraction, student awareness of our region’s employers is still a big challenge for us,” says Julia Boas, director of talent strategies at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “We don’t want to be known as a place that exports all its top talent. We want to be known as a place where you can get a world-class education, find a great paid internship, fall in love with the beauty and vibrancy of Virginia’s Blue Ridge and stay for a great job.”

Young professionals are choosing the Roanoke Region over larger metros, here’s why.

Collaborative partners working to host the first annual summit include the Roanoke Regional Partnership and their talent attraction organization Get2KnowNoke, the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, Onward NRV, Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership, New River/Mt. Rogers Workforce Development Board, and every major college and higher education institution in the Roanoke Region and New River Valley.

“The talent summit is a great opportunity to convene leaders from all aspects of workforce, education, private sector, and economic development,” explained Morgan Romeo, executive director of the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board. “Developing and maintaining a talent pipeline is a team effort and thanks to GO Virginia we can host this summit and invite stakeholders to come to the table and develop tangible solutions as part of a regional talent strategy.”

Future summits are expected to rotate locations throughout the Roanoke Region and New River Valley to highlight the level of excellence at the higher education institutions that these two regions wield.

Combined, the Roanoke Region and New River Valley encompass 25 institutions of higher education, with more than 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students. That’s a higher concentration of undergraduates — .108 per capita – than in the Boston-Cambridge, San Francisco-Oakland, and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill areas.

Combined the Roanoke Region and New River Valleys have over 100,000 students of higher learning.

The 2024 Talent Summit is just one of the many ways that regional partners are working together to leverage the asset of higher education density and create talent pathways that directly benefit our region’s employers. This work is made possible thanks to grants and support from GO Virginia, the Commonwealth’s initiative by senior business leaders to foster private-sector growth and job creation through state incentives for regional collaboration by business, education, and government.

Kim Blair
Vice President for Advancement
Roanoke College

Julia Boas
Director of Talent Strategies
Roanoke Regional Partnership

Morgan Romeo
Executive Director
Greater Roanoke Workforce Board

2024 Get2KnowNoke Ambassadors Poised to Attract and Retain Talent in the Roanoke Region

The newly inducted 2024 Roanoke Region talent ambassadors at their orientation on January 11.

ROANOKE, Va. (January 17, 2024) – The Roanoke Region of Virginia launched the 2024 Get2KnowNoke Talent Ambassador program with 26 young professionals and influencers poised to highlight the unique benefits of living and working in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountain metro.

Get2KnowNoke, a talent attraction initiative of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, selected 26 ambassadors to reflect the region’s diverse lifestyle offerings; they span the distance from Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County to Botetourt County and everything in between; they work for diverse industries from automotive manufacturing to banking, to local artists and entrepreneurs; and they are culturally diverse so that anyone considering moving to the region sees themselves represented.

“We had an unprecedented and overwhelming number of applicants this year, which speaks to the growing interest in our talent attraction efforts and the enthusiasm of our young professionals to invest their time in the region,” said Julia Boas, director of talent strategies at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “As with previous livability initiatives, the key to success is turning residents into Roanoke Region evangelists.”

The Roanoke Region Professional Network quarterly socials regularly see 150-200 attendees.

Talent attraction and retention are a top priority in the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s five-year strategic plan. As communities across the country are fighting to attract, train, and retain top-tier talent, evidence shows that those connecting with young talent early and working intentionally to develop livability assets will win this battle.

Ambassadors are key to making those connections. The 2024 inductees will use their skillsets and interest areas to host pop-up events welcoming newcomers and creating connectivity among user groups, promote lifestyle stories and attractions on social media, develop a strong professional network, and represent the region on campuses, with legislators or leadership, or even meet with companies looking to relocate to the area.

“I am passionate about providing opportunities for urban youth and using technology to create those opportunities,” explained Douglas Pitzer, a newly selected ambassador, founder of Strokes of Genius, vice president of Blacks in Technology for Southwest Virginia, and a polysomnographic technologist at Carilion Clinic. “I’m excited to leverage my connection with Get2KnowNoke to bring awareness to vital causes and continue to strengthen this wonderful community and bring economic prosperity to its residents.”

Doug Pitzer shown third from the left representing Blacks in Technology at the Q3 Social.

The Get2KnowNoke ambassador program is just one piece of the funnel under development by the Partnership’s talent attraction brand. Also being launched in 2024 is the Roanoke Region’s new talent attraction website, a targeted marketing campaign, on-campus interaction with students being educated in the region, summer onboarding programs to connect employers with emerging talent, year-round regional employer branding events, and the Experience Conference in May.

Get2KnowNoke is working diligently with regional partners to fill gaps in the talent pipeline. From current residents, regional employers, and higher education institutions, to students entering the workforce, and mid-career professionals relocating, the region is developing the connections and solutions that make it a place where people want to live and work. And of course, this diverse group of successful and enthusiastic ambassadors will take these initiatives to the next level.

In a study by the Knight Soul of the Community, researchers determined the key indicators that make a community “sticky”, meaning how attached a person is to their community, include openness (how welcome people feel), aesthetics, social offerings, and connections. This three-year study compared residents’ attachment level to GDP growth, with findings showing a significant correlation between community attachment and economic growth.

The Roanoke Outside initiative changed the way we looked at ourselves and helped us leverage our strengths. Get2KnowNoke plans to expand on that positive narrative to include more amenities.

Thanks to previous placemaking and livability efforts by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, including the nationally recognized Roanoke Outside initiative, the region is well-positioned to make its case to young and mid-career audiences. The Get2KnowNoke effort will expand on these successes to ensure that all aspects of our region’s lifestyles are being highlighted.

Meet and connect with all of the Roanoke Region ambassadors by visiting Receive all Get2KnowNoke talent initiative updates by signing up for our bi-monthly e-newsletters.



Get2KnowNoke is the Roanoke Region’s talent attraction brand, developed to lead the effort in showcasing livability assets and make the case for what sets our mountain metro apart from the competition. The initiative was developed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership to leverage the organization’s marketing expertise to develop a young, diverse, and skilled workforce; and to collaborate with education and workforce development partners to better align with employer needs. Learn more at


The Roanoke Regional Partnership, founded in 1983, is the public-private economic development marketing and strategy organization supported by Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem, and the town of Vinton as well as more than 200 businesses. The organization has worked with its partners to create more than 19,000 primary jobs and $19 billion in investment by attracting companies such as Orvis, Altec, McAirlaids, Bimbo Bakeries, Cardinal Glass, Balchem, Eldor, Mack Trucks, STS Group, Traditional Medicinals, New Belgium Brewery and others to the region. The Roanoke Regional Partnership manages 501(c)3 organizations Roanoke Outside and Get2KnowNoke. Learn more at

Revolutionizing the Workplace: Navigating Industry 4.0 for Employers

Harnessing the Technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Each time transformational technology has been added to the landscape of business and manufacturing, there has been an industrial revolution (think gas-powered machines, electronics, nuclear power, and the internet). The fourth industrial revolution is here (some might argue the fifth is upon us), and industries across the world are harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies such as additive manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, automation, and more.

Changing your entire company structure to marry new technologies with old systems can feel overwhelming and requires cooperation from the C-suite down to trainees. Thanks to a project led by GO Virginia and Virginia Tech College of Engineering, the Roanoke Region of Virginia now has access to free Industry 4.0 curriculum, training, and implementation-plan development. Get your entire company thinking with future tech in mind.

Contact the program coordinator to learn more about the training and curriculum, or join one of the upcoming information sessions or workshops.

Benefits of Implementing Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 technologies extend their influence across various sectors, including manufacturing, transportation, retail, agriculture, healthcare, banking, emergency response, and education. To thrive in the rapidly evolving digital economy, introducing your workforce to the knowledge of Industry 4.0 becomes imperative. Industry 4.0 planning and training can affect your company’s bottom line in a variety of ways, but below are a few positive outcomes Industry 4.0 practitioners can point to:

  • Increasing labor productivity, production capacity, and reducing material losses
  • Improving customer service, delivery lead times, and supply chain efficiency
  • Leveraging digitized operational data for business decision making
  • Facilitating more effective human-computer-robot production environments
  • Achieving higher employee satisfaction from being part of the transformation process
  • Capitalizing on existing talent and improving skill sets to elevate the intrinsic value of your workforce
  • Reducing environmental impact through waste reduction, water consumption, and energy efficiency

Source: McKinsey & Company

The recent pandemic underscored the need for resilient manufacturing capabilities. The increased demand for growth and the constraints of traditional workforce development put manufacturers in a bind. Industry 4.0 presents an opportunity for manufacturers, especially small ones, to adopt advanced technologies, enhance productivity, and provide upskilling opportunities for sustainable growth.

Dean Young, Vice President, Business Transformation, GENEDGE Alliance

Deloitte University video on exploring the world of connected enterprises. Industry 4.0

Prioritizing Industry 4.0 in the C-Suite

If you’re serious about your Industry 4.0 future, it must be initiated in the C-suite first. Without that level of engagement, real change is next to impossible, and you could find yourself outpaced by competitors.

To build your Industry 4.0 plan for success, identify a leader with the experience to:

  • Analyze and solve gaps in your digitalization strategy.
  • Identify areas where your investment will have the greatest impact on overall safety, efficiency, agility, and operational control.
  • Drive cultural change and empower your workforce to embrace innovation and advocate for digitally driven solutions.


What Does Industry 4.0 Training Entail?

Luckily for employers in the Roanoke Region, the GO Virginia and Virginia Tech Industry 4.0 Curriculum breaks down the content into modules relevant to different experiences and education levels.

Module 1: Overview of Industry 4.0 and the Foundation Skills Required (This could be relevant for CTE students in high school and learners being introduced to Industry 4.0 concepts by employers.)
Module 2: Soft Skills Required in Industry 4.0 Organizations (Focuses on self-awareness and critical thinking; machinery communications and the basics of network structures, protocols, procedures, etc.)
Module 3: Industry 4.0 Professional Education (Continued education for professionals already working within Industry 4.0. Includes advice/support developing business plans and new products.)

“Given the recent demographic trend of baby-boomers exiting the workforce and the challenges of recruiting Millennials and GenZ into the manufacturing sector, these ‘connected solutions’ are now becoming far more valuable in terms of creating a work culture where our next generation of leaders will thrive.  Wealth creation from these technologies is also opening more pathways to the middle class for a broader segment of our communities.  It is an exciting time to be involved in Industry 4.0!”

– Jay Foster, CEO and Founder of Flex-Metrics

Create Higher Paying Jobs and ACE Employers

Automated-Connected-Electrified (ACE) employers will be global leaders in next-generation manufacturing and automation, and we’re here to make sure that Roanoke Region employers are those leaders. With demographic shifts in the workforce, these technologies create a work culture conducive to the growth of the next generation of leaders, fostering wealth creation and broadening pathways to the middle class. You won’t need 1000 employees to run a high-volume, productive plant anymore – you need 200 Industry 4.0 savvy employees.

Industry 4.0 is not just a technological revolution; it’s a strategic imperative for employers. Embracing these transformative technologies and investing in workforce education can position your organization at the forefront of the evolving industrial landscape. As Industry 4.0 unfolds, be the catalyst for change, unlocking the true potential of your workforce and ensuring sustained success in the digital age.

CNBC Explains: What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Firefli Named Top 20 Best Places to Work in VA. Here’s why…

If you’ve ever worked with the amazing design and development teams at Firefli, you totally get why this company is thriving and winning awards like the Virginia Business Top Places to Work. They are friendly, agile, and lean – and experts at finding the balance between strategy, design, and functionality.

Owner and founder, Greg Brock, understands that “inspired creative individuals that feel valued create amazing work.” This is why they work with the intention to nurture their team of creatives and to grow strategically by including staff with different skill sets and perspectives. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Firefli on projects like and the Get2KnowNoke brand new talent portal, estimated to launch in March 2024.

Learn how they created an award-winning team, headquartered right in the heart of downtown Roanoke.

Firefli plans regular outings to celebrate their wins and build comradery.
Continue reading “Firefli Named Top 20 Best Places to Work in VA. Here’s why…”

Roanoke Region Professional Events Calendar is LIVE

The new self-populating, always-updated regional calendar will pull in your events automatically

The new self-populating, always-updated Roanoke Regional calendar will pull in your events automatically, the caveat being your event must be available online event with a unique url. But if you don’t have that, we can still add them manually.

View the video below to learn more about adding your events to our calendar, using the navigation tools, submitting your internal url for scraping, or promoting events via the portal.

All regional partners and investors of the Roanoke Regional Partnership are eligible for FREE event promotions related to professional development, careers, networking, livability, and placemaking. Just let our staff know, and we’ll help you spread the word.

Continue reading “Roanoke Region Professional Events Calendar is LIVE”

Roanoke Career Event Aimed at Students and Graduates Hopes to Strengthen Talent Pipeline

October 4 Talent Expo to be held at the Taubman Museum in Downtown Roanoke

Roanoke, VA (September 26, 2023)– Get2KnowNoke (G2KN) and the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership (V-TOP) are hosting the Fall Intern and Early Career Expo to connect Roanoke Region employers with potential talent educated in the region. On October 4, college students, recent graduates, and early career professionals are invited to meet with regional employers about career and intern opportunities.

From 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke, nearly 50 local employers will be on-site to discuss both paid internship programs and early career positions with talent looking to gain valuable experience and on-the-job training. Attendees can still register online to learn about regional companies, internship opportunities, entry-level positions, the Roanoke Region, and its professional ecosystem.

Entry to the expo is free for attendees, and higher education institutions will provide transportation to and from the event. Enrolled students and alumni must register by September 27 for transportation.

Along with G2KN and V-TOP, all the region’s top colleges and universities have collaborated in the planning of this event to maximize the value to students and employers. Hollins University, Ferrum College, Virginia Tech, Radford University, Roanoke College, and Virginia Western Community College career service department are all engaged in this effort.

Continue reading “Roanoke Career Event Aimed at Students and Graduates Hopes to Strengthen Talent Pipeline”

Roanoke Named to ‘Top 25 Hiking Cities in the US’ List by CNN

The Roanoke Roanoke has long been known as an outdoor enthusiast’s haven, but being featured as one of the nation’s premier hiking destinations is an extra feather in the cap.

McAfee Knob in Roanoke is the most photographed overlook on the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. Known for its stunning 270-degree view, rock outcrops, fall foliage, and epic sunsets and sunrises.

Roanoke was recently featured as one of the “25 Best Hiking Cities in the U.S.” by Roanoke was featured at the top of the list behind only Boise, ID. – coincidence? We don’t think so!

Proximity to assets like green spaces, hiking trails, waterfalls, and mountains played a big role in which cities made it on the list. This is one of the main things people mention when talking about the Roanoke hiking scene – some of the most beautiful hikes in the U.S. are just a 15-minute drive from downtown.

This is timely news considering the City of Roanoke just announced over 100 miles of trails and greenways within its limits, and they plan to celebrate with a trail work day and party on Mill Mountain, September 23. And that’s 100 miles solely in the urban core!

Continue reading “Roanoke Named to ‘Top 25 Hiking Cities in the US’ List by CNN”

One Of Virginia’s Largest Construction Companies Talks Talent Attraction

Branch is one of the largest construction companies in Virginia, and their 58,000+ sq. foot corporate headquarters can be found on Peters Creek Rd. in the city of Roanoke. The employee-owned company has expanded its presence across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, with a large portion of its 1,100 employees living and working in the Roanoke Region (as well as Virginia and North Carolina). You can learn more about the history of Branch here.

We spoke with a great group of folks who manage talent attraction and human relations across all their business units, which include Branch Civil, Branch Builds, and Hopkins|Lacy – and got some great insight into why their company is leading the way for the Roanoke Region.

State-of-the-Art STEM Building at Virginia Western – Built by Branch Group

Branch Group’s Recruitment Strategy

Branch is not unique when facing challenges in the labor market. In addition to the unprecedented, historically high number of job openings exacerbated by COVID-19, the construction industry is battling an increased shortage of skilled workers. Closing the gap between the large number of experienced workers retiring from the industry and the small number of those entering will be a challenge for the next decade. As an employee-owned company, it’s critical that we are always striving to attract and keep the best employees we can since our success hinges on their talents.

One of the foundational elements of our strategy is consistent communication and workforce planning with our business unit leaders (Branch has three separate entities). This allows us to understand current and future staffing needs.

These needs can change suddenly due to project schedules, and we often have to recruit high numbers quickly. By having regular meetings, tracking current and predicted job openings, and sharing intel, we can be proactive instead of reactive.

It’s proved crucial to stay on top of technology trends and incorporate new platforms efficiently for both recruiters and hiring managers. In 2022, we introduced a new employee referral program and the number of referrals has increased dramatically. The addition of a text messaging system, integrated with our recruiting software, improved our ability to communicate with candidates who work in the field and are on the go. We also improved our reporting and added analytical data to help identify gaps in our pipeline, the jobs, and regions that are most popular or have the largest candidates drop off and inform us about the candidate’s journey from awareness to hire.

2023 Branch Group Intern Cohort

Talent also has a strong partnership with the internal marketing department. Sharing this data with marketing allows them to create better campaigns, strategically buy media, and pivot quickly when needed. They can effectively communicate our company’s employee value proposition (EVP) in creative ways to break through the noise of our competitors — by focusing on the culture that employee ownership creates, the accountability and opportunities that exist because of it, and the rewards it reaps, we’re able to attract the best talent.

Construction is a traditionally male profession, but Branch works hard to break those social norms.

Tapping Into Diverse or Unexpected Talent Pools

Comprising members of Human Resources and stakeholders within the business units, our Workforce Development committee has successfully identified the best-untapped talent pools and groups that have diverse candidates with transferrable skills. Through these programs and partnerships with various agencies, we are seeing more candidates and a positive impact on our diversity numbers. It’s critical that HR works on identifying these groups with employees within the organization since they will know where their peers are. As an organization, you cannot always depend on your leaders to know where to look.

What Could the Roanoke Region Be Doing to Attract More Young Talent?

To attract young talent, it is imperative that the region offer affordable housing options to new graduates (especially those saddled with student loans) and young adults just moving out on their own. This may call for fewer restrictions to building apartments or incentivizing the building of smaller, single-family homes.

The region does a great job of highlighting our amazing outdoor lifestyle and vibrant downtown, both of which are attractive to young adults. We’ve also noticed neighboring regions introducing “non-alcoholic bars” which is a trend that our region is lacking.

Businesses and organizations need to build stronger relationships with the many colleges and universities in the region. We want recent graduates to stay here, instead of transplanting to larger, more expensive cities or moving back to their hometowns. They may not even consider us an option if we don’t show them what we offer.

Campus recruitment & K-12 engagement are essential elements of Branch’s long-term recruitment strategy.

Branch Collaborations with Regional Educational Institutions

Building relationships is one of Branch’s core values, so collaboration with local educational institutions is a top priority. We consistently evaluate our success with students in their various programs to optimize the relationship for both parties. Sponsoring and attending hiring events, speaking at colleges and classes, mentoring students, offering internships and career exploration opportunities, and working with their career centers are just a few ways that we engage.

It should be noted that we have found the most success in partnering with our local high schools. Interest in STEM careers like construction and engineering starts way before college! We love to interact with the students at local vocational and high schools.

Branch Builds and Hopkins|Lacy are both involved in the mega-project for Carilion’s newest tower.

We provide interviewing coaching, soft-skill training, career exploration days, and career fairs. We have a reputable 25-year-old mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) student apprenticeship programs and newer heavy equipment and carpentry apprenticeships that successfully recruit students.

Alongside Roanoke City schools, we’ve created an externship for a mechanical engineering student who will shadow our Building Information Management (BIM) team and explore real-world applications. In July, we offered our first Career Exploration Day, which allowed students ages 16-18 to job shadow each department at Branch, including non-construction-related careers. These experiences will help students get an idea of the career paths they can explore upon graduation.

Successful Mentorship and Internship Programs Nurture Young Talent and Prepare Them for Employment

Branch has hosted summer interns for decades. During the nine-week internships, we offer three career pathways in three-week rotations. This format provides hands-on experiences to help young talent determine their area of focus upon graduation. To aid development off the job site, we created intern-specific webinars about employee benefits, how retirement accounts work, resume tips, and interview skills (just to name a few).

Our employees host social events for the interns at Top Golf or to go axe-throwing! The opportunity to network with seasoned professionals and fellow interns helps build culture and relationships. To become their employer-of-choice upon graduation, we invite those who are eligible back for another summer or offer them a full-time position. If you’re interested in an internship at Branch Group for 2024, meet with them at the October 4 Intern & Early Career Expo at the Taubman Museum in downtown Roanoke.

What Workforce and Talent Attraction Tools in the Roanoke Region Would You Recommend to Another Employer?

Your business doesn’t have to solve every challenge on its own. Use your workforce development agencies! They offer funding for training, career counselors who integrate candidates into places of employment, and potential financial incentives for companies who hire from disenfranchised populations. Overcome barriers to employment by working with agencies that provide wrap-around services; for example, ride-sharing for employees who don’t have reliable transportation, or financial benefits for employees to maintain reliable childcare. Talk to your vendors, clients, and even competitors to see how they are solving their workforce challenges – you may discover new resources or find a partner.

Economic development agencies, such as the Roanoke Regional Partnership, are invested in retaining talent after graduation from local colleges and universities and encouraging those who grew up here, but settled elsewhere after graduation, to return to the region. Employers can do this as well by highlighting the quality of life that the region offers while extending an offer for employment. Use the marketing materials they provide to persuade your candidates that Roanoke is the place to be.

Follow Along on Social & Sign Up for Our Bi-Monthly Emails


Johnson and Johnson Labs Attract Innovators to Roanoke with QuickFire Challenge

Johnson and Johnson labs QuickFire Challenge in Roanoke Region

Global Oncology Research Innovators Compete for $300,000 and J-Labs Partnership

Okay, that’s a lot of fancy words. What does that mean for the Roanoke Region and our continuously growing innovation corridor?

The QuickFire Challenge is offering top global innovators an opportunity to receive $300,000 in funding in exchange for locating their start-up in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region. This means if they receive the money, they commit to establishing their business footprint within the Roanoke-Blacksburg region and remaining within the region for two years following receipt of the award.

The awardees don’t just receive funding, they will also be wrapped into the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center ecosystem which includes lab space. It also includes access to the acclaimed Johnson & Johnson Innovation Labs network, known in the industry as JLABS. This includes mentorship from experts across the JLABS companies, which can be a game-changer for these biotech entrepreneurs.

This award will help with the formulation of biotech clusters within the innovation corridor and is expected to attract similarly-focused researchers to do their work in conjunction with Virginia Tech Carilion and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

Hub of the innovation corridor in downtown Roanoke.

Why is JLABS Interested in the Roanoke Region?

Virginia is home to a growing community of over 300 life science companies, with Virginia Tech Carilion and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute acting as a shining example of Virginia’s Higher Education Institutions – which collectively earn $382 Million in grant funding in 2022 alone.

The state announced more than $66 million in grants for innovative projects in Biotechnology, Life Science, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Cluster, which will include an advanced laboratory incubator and wet lab space in the City of Roanoke scheduled to open in 2024.

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine students take part in preclinical transition to clerkship training. (David Hungate for VTC)

Who is eligible to win the QuickFire Challenge?

This particular award is specific to potential solutions aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology.

Tumor types of particular interest include prostate cancer, hematologic malignancies, lung cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, brain and spinal cord. For full details on who is eligible visit

Potential solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  • Uniqueness of the idea
  • Potential impact on human health
  • Feasibility of the idea
  • Thoroughness of approach
  • Identification of key resources and a plan to further the idea
  • Team quality and capabilities
  • Interest in the innovation ecosystem in Virginia

Questions About The QuickFire Challenge’s Regional Impact? Email