Stopping brain drain in Roanoke, Lynchburg, New River Valley

Study reveals areas for improvement to keep college grads, attract business

ROANOKE, Va. – How do you stop brain drain and boost the regional economy?

Experts in Roanoke, Lynchburg and the New River Valley teamed up to find answers.

The Roanoke Regional Partnership, Onward New River Valley and the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance received a GO Virginia Region 2 grant to study why students leave the area and what kinds of workers businesses want.

They interviewed more than 100 businesses and young professionals, plus nearly 1,200 students.

They found that only 18% of college graduates would stay in the area.

Students liked the area's low cost of living and outdoor recreational opportunities, but the three regions lack cultural diversity and entertainment.

Now the three groups have an action plan to keep students in the area and draw in new businesses.

"As companies are looking in and looking to grow, they really want to make sure that they have the talent to expand and to grow," said Erin Burcham, director of talent solutions for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. "We have such a huge asset of having so many students so close by that we want to make sure that we're retaining them after school."

Their plan is to market local job opportunities to college campuses, target students in high demand jobs and make it easier for young professionals to connect with one another.

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