The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council announced Monday that John Phillips will take over as president of the organization, bringing an eclectic background that includes stops at Virginia Tech, his own business and a 30-year military career.
His appointment comes after past RBTC President Robert McAden stepped down in May following two years in the job in order to join an undisclosed technology company in the region.
Phillips’ first day will be Sept. 3, but he won’t have to go far before then.
Phillips is a graduate of Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He first came to Blacksburg in 1988 for a job with what is now Bank of America.
In 1997, Phillips was named the director of Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development. In that role he worked with hundreds of Virginia companies with the goal of leveraging the university’s resources to grow the local economy.
Phillips worked closely with the technology industry during that time, focusing in part on helping businesses spin out of Tech’s research labs, according to previous Roanoke Times articles.
He was active in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council through the early years of the organization, when he says it was significantly smaller and known as the New Century Technology Council.
“It has always had very strong support within the community,” Phillips said. “It’s a strong, solid organization.”
In 2002, Phillips helped launch VT KnowledgeWorks, an entrepreneurship-focused arm of the university.
He resigned from Virginia Tech that same year to run his own moving and storage business, Premier Transfer & Storage Inc. That company grew from two employees to about 75 at its height. Phillips sold part of the business in 2015 and shut down the rest.
“I know and understand what it takes to start a company, attract capital, work with both investors and work with banks,” Phillips said. “I also understand how nerve racking that can be and what it takes for an entrepreneur to sustain themselves through those types of exciting and stressful experiences.”
Phillips has served on the board for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Montgomery County Economic Development Authority. He also made an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in 1999.
While navigating his way through the business world, Phillips also built a 30-year military career, retiring as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. He completed a tour in Iraq in 2005 and 2006.
Phillips’ son also attended Virginia Military Institute, and is now serving active duty in Afghanistan. His daughter, meanwhile, is attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“John’s experience as an entrepreneur and business leader, as well as his deep ties to Virginia Tech stood out to the search committee,” said Kevin Bloomfield, co-chairman of the RBTC Board of Directors, in a news release. “As an Iraq War veteran and retired colonel from the Army Reserves, John will have no trouble setting his boots on the ground and quickly taking on this new role to serve our members.”