New River Valley growth: 800 more IT jobs expected

Leaders make new push to collaborate on ways to attract talent

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – There was another sign Tuesday of growth in the New River Valley.

More than 800 more jobs in the field of information technology are expected to arrive in the next year-and-a-half, according to the nonprofit the Valleys Innovation Council.

The announcement comes amid growth in other industries and at Virginia Tech.

Dozens of tech companies here are hiring, like 1901 Group, which will soon add a whole new building, contributing to the large jobs prediction: 801 more jobs in IT in the New River Valley in the next 18 months, according to projections in a new study released Tuesday.

Wendi Pannell says she’s the “poster child” for successful hiring. The tech company Ozmo in Blacksburg convinced her and her family to move here earlier this year.

“The area is just gorgeous, every season of this area," Pannell said. “And the schools, nothing but good things about the schools. In fact, I think it’s a battle between the regions on whose school is the best.”

She’s a leader at Ozmo, which helps customer service workers and consumers troubleshoot apps on various devices.

While a student at Virginia Tech years ago, she said she never could have imagined that the landscape would change and her career would take her back here.

“You know it’s a good area when your 12-year-old says several times, ‘Wow mom, people are so nice here,’” Pannell said.

Companies and economic development groups said on Tuesday that, now more than ever, they need to collaborate on how to pitch themselves and the New River Valley to potential new employees to convince them that they want to come live there.

They said the data shows that when people move there, they stay. The difficulties come in getting people to make the move.

“It’s definitely a challenge recruiting people to this area,” said Amanda Stuart, director of HR at 
FoxGuard Solutions in Christiansburg.

She said the trend is that college students often move away after graduation.

“Because they do move away to northern Virginia we often compete with those salaries. Usually the niche environment we get those students who usually move back after moving to northern Virginia,” Stuart said.

Leaders are pitching outdoor adventure, the lack of crowds and traffic and strong schools as ways to attract people. They’re asking for public input, welcoming ideas on how to pitch the NRV to potential new employees.

The Valleys Innovation Council projects that the Roanoke area is also growing in the tech field. Between the New River and Roanoke valleys, more than 1,200 IT jobs are expected in total in the next year-and-a-half.

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