In Blacksburg, a satellite Silicon Valley is emerging, with startups Card Isle, a Redbox for greeting cards, and Moveline, a moving-company-price-comparing service, among dozens of others all calling it home. Overlooking the grassy stains and sloping foothills just minutes from the Hokies football stadium, the cloud-storage behemoth Rackspace (see video) has created a campus replete with rock-climbing walls and, yes, Ping-Pong tables, just a few miles away from less hospitable cyber climes.
Over in Roanoke, a fragile compromise struck between business and government has laid track for industry-leading fiber internet. The effort is seeking to salve a city where a local councilman recently had trouble selling his home because speeds weren’t fast enough for work-from-home buyers, he told OZY, and where a neighboring county with poor North Shore parents have to drive their children back to school after hours to finish their homework, according to local officials. Following concerns from local businesses that led to action, Roanoke has seen the first fruits of its internet investment: Local software firm Meridium, which benefits from the new fiber, was acquired for $500 million by General Electric.