Virginia Tech embrace of medical school sets the stage for more economic growth

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The momentum continues to build at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.

Monday's announcement that the medical school will be fully integrated with the programs of Virginia Tech is good news for students and staff.

But it could also set the stage for more economic growth in western Virginia.

"Together we think this is a natural evolution," said Carilion Clinic CEO Nancy Agee.

"The partnership is going to be stronger, I think," added Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands..

The announcement that Virginia Tech and Carilion celebrated Monday means the School of Medicine will become a full partner and the 9th college at Virginia Tech.

Lowering the barriers between programs, leaders say, will provide new opportunities for students and faculty.

"This was always the plan for the medical school to be fully part of Virginia Tech," said Cynda Johnson, Dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

"This is an opportunity to take something that's worked incredibly well," said Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Executive Director Michael Friedlander, "and take it to the next level."

It also holds promise for the region's economy, both on the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus where the school is located, and also in the innovation corridor Roanoke is intent on building between Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and downtown.

Chris Morrill is Roanoke's City Manager.

"So right now, we think it's already had a $ 300 million impact on the local economy, on the regional economy here," Morrill told WDBJ7. "And it seems like it's just getting started."

Right now most of the economic activity centers on the students who have moved here and the jobs the medical school and research institute have already generated.

But that could be just the beginning.

Beth Doughty is the Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

"I think you'll see even greater economic impact," Doughty said, "with spinoffs from the research institute in particular and that is really the kind of holy grail of economic development."