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Business Matters strives to explore that subject from a variety of viewpoints and scenarios - the big players, the up-and-coming, the look ahead; featuring interviews with the people helping to grow jobs, the economy, and the Blue Ridge region.  Series host Gene Marrano is an award-winning radio and print journalist, and the editor of Valley Business FRONT magazine.

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Season 1 (2021)

Episode 101

Guests are Landon Howard and Catherine Fox of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, and Pete Eshelman and Julia Boas with Roanoke Outside, and the Roanoke Regional Partnership. The discussion focuses on how to bring tourists, and the locals, back to the outdoor amenities, cultural attractions, shops, and eateries, during Covid-19 restrictions.  

Episode 102

Guests Brian Ball, Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Joyce Waugh share insights on the state government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did the state economy respond, and is economic growth still on track?

Episode 103

Guests are Mary Miller with RAMP, John Phillips with Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, and Glenn Feit, with QuickTech Medical. This episode focuses on local mentoring programs for high-tech startups to launch, and grow, their business enterprises. 

Episode 104

An important conversation with several area working mothers, on the challenges they’ve faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Guests are Shannon Dominguez with the Advancement Foundation; Abby Hamilton, President and CEO of United Way of Roanoke Valley; Kim Whiter, CEO of Elder Care Solutions; Karen Pillis, Director of Mental Health Services with Family Service of Roanoke Valley; and Shanna Ferguson, insurance agent with Holley Insurance.

Episode 105

 A look at how local small businesses have adapted, and pivoted, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Guests are Beth Bell, Executive Director of the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce; Jamie Clark, Marketing and Communications Manager for Downtown Roanoke Incorporated; and Kat Pascal, co-owner of FarmBurguesa restaurants.

Episode 106

We focus on local economic development news – ranging from big box stores to small businesses. Guests are Jill Loope, Director of Economic Development for Roanoke County; Marc Nelson, Economic Development Manager for the City of Roanoke; Ben Tripp, City Planner for the City of Salem; and Angie Chewning, Executive Director for the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Episode 107

A discussion on the broadband coverage challenges that many people faced once the pandemic sent millions home for school and work. Guests are Frank Smith, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority; Botetourt County Administrator, Gary Larrowe; Dr. Scott Midkiff, Vice-President for Information Technology, and Chief Information Officer at Virginia Tech; and Ray LaMura, President of the VCTA and the Broadband Association of Virginia.

Episode 108

What local innovations mean for economic development in Southwest Virginia. Our guests are Greg Feldmann, Executive Director & CEO of Verge; Troy Keyser, Director of Carilion Innovation for Carilion Clinic; Brett Malone, President and CEO of Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center; and Debbie Custer, lead consultant for Vinton-based, Innovation Mill.

Episode 109

A look at a number of regional partnerships working to move our economy forward after a chaotic pandemic year. Guests are John Hull, Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership; Jamie Glass, Director of Economic Development for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance; and Charlie Jewell, Executive Director of Onward New River Valley.

Episode 110

A discussion on what help is available for small businesses as they get off the ground – and what obstacles they must overcome.  Guests are Amanda Forrester, Director of the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center; Carolan Deacon, partner in Minds Blown Media; Brandy Underwood, owner of Cupcakes & Canines; and Shaqueena “Chef Queen” Snyder, owner of Queens Vegan Café. 

Episode 111

A chat with Nancy Howell Agee, President and Chief Executive Officer for Carilion Clinic, regarding the dramatic changes the health system has made over the past two decades. Also, how Carilion has dealt with the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Episode 112

An important discussion on the current hiring and recruiting challenges in the region. Guests are Tim Saunders, Business Engagement and Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Career Works Central Virginia Workforce Development Board; Brian Wells, General Manager of The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center; Kelly Woolwine, CEO and co-founder of EvolutionHR; and Erin Burcham, Director of Talent Solutions at Roanoke Regional Partnership.


Episode 113

We check in with local arts and culture organizations to see how they have rebounded from the pandemic and its restrictions. Guests are Cindy Petersen, Executive Director of the Taubman Museum of Art; Cyrus Pace, Executive Director of The Jefferson Center; Ginger Poole, Producing Artistic Director for Mill Mountain Theatre; and  David Crane, Executive Director of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.

Thank you to our program sponsor:

Lionberger Construction