They say there’s no place like home. We’ve all heard it before. But how many of us can honestly say that not only about our home, but the collective community in which we live and work? For those of us in the New River Valley, we can easily agree with that statement without a moment’s hesitation. And the longer we live here, the more we realize our home is both an area rich with natural beauty and a hub for technology and innovation. It’s a place where we can be excited about the innovative companies and technologies growing out of our area but also enjoy hiking, biking, and tubing down the New River.
One aspect of this region that is unique to other areas boasting a strong technology community is that 84% of the region’s employment comes from homegrown businesses. The technology and local companies are being birthed out of the area, rather than relocating here. Our company, started nearly 30 years ago, is one such example. Our story, and the stories of other homegrown companies, is a powerful testimony to the richness of our area both in the life-style benefits as well as the business benefits. One benefit is the supportive environment we work in. Through our involvement in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), we have discovered a shared camaraderie between local companies and have learned the stories of other homegrown businesses. We are excited to share three such stories with you!
Located in Downtown Blacksburg is a local software company: Qualtrax. It was born twenty years ago out of a need to solve a real problem – to help businesses facing heavy compliance burdens. Sarah Obenauer, the Marketing and Communications Specialist, described their services, “We help those making sure the food we eat is safe, the medical devices that enter your body are of high quality, and that the right people go to prison and the right people stay out.”
The team at Qualtrax loves being part of this community. Last year they relocated from Christiansburg to a renovated Freemason’s Lodge in Downtown Blacksburg. The building exudes the character and culture of the area by maximizing historic details while interjecting the modern Qualtrax brand. Sarah described the shared camaraderie of the local businesses, “We all want to see each other succeed. We look at our success and our neighbor’s success and see it as a triumph for all of us.”
Just around the corner from North Main Street is Modea, a nucleus of energy and innovation. At Modea, a team of consultants designs software applications and digital platforms to help their clients build better businesses. Adam Soccolich, the Director of Operations, has observed our community possesses a “unique and unspoken mentality of ‘all for one, and one for all’ – there is a common realization that each company can impact the community, and the community can impact each company.” This makes the area ripe for recruiting, networking, and connecting with new clients. One of Adam’s favorite parts about this region is the supportive network – “I’ve been fortunate to work with many great leaders, and they’ve all provided their time for mentorship, and the access to new growth opportunities,” he shared. When he graduated from Virginia Tech and entered a new chapter in his life, Adam discovered he didn’t want to leave the captivating area. That’s what many homegrown businesses have found: the energy, support, and one-of-a-kind nature is why businesses have found their home in the resource-rich NRV.
Located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC), Mindsense solves everyday efficiency problems with products like Throttle, an app which allows you to control who can send you an email, and Mail Pilot, a tool that increases email inbox productivity. Mail Pilot became the top paid app in the entire Mac App Store within hours of its launch.
The Founder and CEO, Alex Obenauer, is a Virginia Tech alumnus with a degree in Computer Science. Alex explained Mindsense is located in this region intentionally. “Our company’s core values resonate so well with this region that we knew it was a natural fit when we were just starting the company in the spare bedroom of my college apartment, and we still know it now from our offices in the VTCRC.” In regards to the fact that most of the region’s employment comes from homegrown businesses, Alex noted, “It shows how invested we are as a community in our own businesses and entrepreneurs.”
Alex and his team are active in local organizations such as the RBTC and VTCRC, and are excited about what is happening in the region. He anticipates our community will be one that attracts new talent and supports the growth of more homegrown success stories.
Here at PSI, we have high expectations for our region as well. With such a great collection of businesses, how could we expect anything less? Our friends at Qualtrax, Modea, and Mindsense, are just a few of the many homegrown companies impacting our community every day. These companies expose the power of homegrown businesses that work together with mutual support and admiration. With a group like this, there’s no limit to what our community can achieve. After living, working and growing here, we’re thrilled to say the old adage is true – there really is no place like home.