The Hokies bring thousands of people to Blacksburg. The impact is felt outside of town.
Take Hokie gear, for example. The town of Christiansburg, just a few football fields away from Lane Stadium, is home to one of the country's top sellers of collegiate gear. Virginia Tech licensing Director Locke White confirmed the Christiansburg Walmart comes in ninth in sales nationwide, following behind much bigger schools like Ohio State and Texas.
NCAA football, economic experts say, is a game changer. "Any time ESPN or the networks come to town," said Roanoke Economic Director Wayne Bowers. "It's important to have major college sports."
Bowers says the star city benefits from having Virginia Tech 40 miles down the road in ways beyond athletics. "A major research university like Virginia Tech has a tremendous economic impact on any community."
Perhaps the most visible sign of the two communities coming together, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute near the hospital. Bowers says the public-private partnership has made a difference in the six years since its creation. "The medical school itself and the research institute has generated numerous jobs," he said. "It's brought new research teams into our community and certainly have a spin off effect because those people live in our community and work in our community."
Aside from that, Virginia Tech estimates more than 400 employees who work at its Blacksburg campus commute from areas like Roanoke and Salem. Other visitors get here via Roanoke Regional Airport, what Bowers calls the gateway to Virginia Tech. "I think the university is one of the biggest users of the airport."
The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center is another example of a partnership between Virginia Tech and the city that creates tax revenue for Roanoke. "It brings a lot of tourists to town, a lot of conventions and a lot of conferences," Bowers said. "The academic conferences Virginia Tech supplies is very important in the community."
Whether visitors stay in the city or head to Blacksburg for business or football, it's a relationship Bowers says Roanoke wouldn't want to live without. "I'd say it's indescribable because without a major university like that. We would certainly behind in our economic development efforts. It's certainly many millions of dollars of impact on our community."