Trains Built Roanoke. Science Saved It.

Roanoke, Virginia (Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for Politico Magazine)

Roanoke, Virginia (Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for Politico Magazine)

How did a small city in a disadvantaged region four hours from a major metropolis—one that had seen its signature industries atrophy or depart, that lacked so much as a branch campus of a state university—transform itself from the forgotten stepsister of the Appalachians into a formidable rival to Asheville, North Carolina? The answer has lessons for small, out-of-the-way cities everywhere: Roanoke’s people did it largely by themselves, in small steps and with an eye to assets and alliances in the wider region around them.

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