My pal Dwayne Yancey just posted an invitation on Facebook to sell Roanoke to an outsider and the responses were generally predictable (great scenery, weather, etc.) and I took the opportunity to respond, as well. I’ve lived here since taking a job as a reporter at the daily newspaper in 1971 (which is longer than most natives have lived here, I’d bet).
Here’s my response: “I ditched my hometown of Asheville for Roanoke in 1971 and have never regretted it. Roanoke is a superior place to raise children, to be an immigrant, to be brown or black, to be an entrepreneur, to be young or old (I’ve been both here), to be active and curious, to want good health care, to be ambitious, to seek additional education (regardless of your age or status), to have a good idea, to want to fall in love, to appreciate the arts and to be directly involved in them. It is a good place to begin a family and equally good to retire. It is a region that wants, needs and rewards volunteers and innovators. I don’t like the notation that ‘Roanoke is not … but …’ because Roanoke is.
“Are there problems? Yep. City government is not the nation’s (or even Western Virginia’s) best because it is extremely passive, but the city manager is competent, even when city council isn’t. The Trump population is not overwhelming and the liberal pockets are strong. Women have become acutely political, a good thing. The past two years, the Women’s March has been eye-opening. You can exercise inside at excellent facilities seven days a week or simply hike or bike the extensive greenway system any time you wish. I can have my kayak on Carvins Cove or in the Roanoke River in 15 minutes or be on a mountain hiking trail in a quarter hour. If you like trains, this is a railroad town–which now has passenger service.
“The airport is beautiful and serviceable for a locality this size (my brother, who travels about 200 days a year says it’s one of the best in the world). Roanoke is a UPS hub and has a good highway system if you want to put a plant here.
“Live music is superb (absolutely top notch talent) and the the Valley produces a jaw-dropping number of nationally known writers. The writers conference I started 11 years ago is one of the best in this region. People who were not born here are welcome here–with open arms.
“The weather is moderate (though some would argue that in mid-January or mid-July), the swimming and skiing superb, the resorts close, B&Bs plentiful, meeting facilities excellent and the welcome warm for all of you. Come see us.”
Dwayne interestingly noted, “Our congressman grew up in Massachusetts. His predecessor was from Chicago by way of New York. Point being, you don’t have to go back many generations to take part in things here, or make a difference. Our mayor grew up in Danville. Our vice mayor grew up in Baltimore. I could go on and on.
“One of our state legislators is the only Muslim member of the Virginia General Assembly. Roanoke certainly isn’t perfect but we seem to be a lot more open to outsiders than other Southern cities. (I should note that the Muslim legislator in question grew up here; although his family immigrated here.) When he ran for office, I don’t recall his faith being an issue at all. He succeeded an African-American legislator, who represented a white-majority district.”
I’d call that “welcoming” even though with our 25-year congressman, it would have been much better had he settled in South Alabama, since that’s his voting pattern.