By Beth Doughty
Runners from across the United States and several countries will flock to Roanoke for America’s toughest road race — the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon on April 20. Along with the recently opened River Rock climbing gym, expanded greenway system and new outdoor events, the Roanoke region is making progress on an economic development vision — to leverage our outdoor assets to enhance quality of life, which will attract talent, jobs and investment to the region.
Along with education and transportation systems, the outdoors — trails, parks, greenways, lakes and rivers — are building blocks of a vibrant economy. A Knight Foundation study called Soul of the Community says social offerings, openness and aesthetics are factors that attach people to their community. The higher the level of attachment, the stronger the economic growth.
In the Roanoke region, the outdoors is the venue that stimulates social interaction and welcomes all in a beautiful stage. It’s also a laboratory that’s inventing our economic future.
Doughty is executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, which has focused on an economic strategy around the outdoors through programs such as RoanokeOutside.com, the Blue Ridge Marathon and GOFest.