For years, I have struggled with the idea that business in my local community is almost non existent because I live in a rural, bedroom community where the majority of people work and shop 30-45 minutes away. There are very limited opportunities for local jobs, for residents of any age. The youth move away as quickly as possible to find jobs, attend school and have a social life. In recent years, two of the major employers have shut down, the Dept. of Transportation hub and the telephone company, owned by an out of state corporation.
This is truly sad, as there are well educated, well trained workers, management and leadership quality individuals who live here, and who would gladly stop driving over mountains, wasting hours of time and many gallons of gas each week to apply their talents to local employment. In my community, it is a lack of vision, a lack of investment, and a sheer lack of planning that has led to the economic disaster.
Regionally, it has been pointed out this week, the mentality of looking elsewhere for what is locally available exists in the Roanoke Valley at an entirely different level. The Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce did not feel the need to look within its membership which they are supposed to be serving to meet the needs of their own organizational development. With the new publication “Roanoke Business,” the RRCC has chosen to publish outside of the region, and compete directly with its membership, specifically Valley Business Front Magazine and Leisure Publishing, of Roanoker Magazine and Blue Ridge Country Magazine fame. Not only were their members not given an opportunity to bid on the new publication, notice was made public only after the deal was sealed!
When this lack of consideration, communication and common decency is public, it stings, bad! This decision will have a ripple effect on the businesses of our region, having to face decisions about loyalty, perception of their consumers and business partners, and even their churches and families. The writers who could have made great contributions to the publication may choose to stay local with their submissions, increasing the opportunity for outsiders to tell the stories of our region without the years of experience and footwork our local writers have invested. Yes, the Chamber is about business, and yet it seemed to forget it is the ROANOKE REGIONAL Chamber.
When people do things like this, which happens every day, and say “it’s business.” that’s a poor excuse. Business today is about relationships, whether it’s a person walking in the door of your store or greeting you on Facebook each morning. If the relationships are not respected, especially during challenging economic times, the ties that are broken can create wide divides.