III. Focused Issues. 1. Economic Development C I T Y OF P E T E R S B U R G, V I R G I N I A - C O M P R E H E N S I V E P L A N 2 011

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1 III. Focused Issues 1. Economic Development Economic development efforts require a multi-faceted approach to best serve the current workforce, train the next generation, and position the City to adapt to regional, national, and international economic trends. Petersburg s economic development efforts are served by a number of partnerships and agencies at the state, regional, and local levels who have the resources to address these areas. Table III-A displays the broad spectrum of services provided by multiple agencies. Below are several economic development agencies vital to Petersburg s economic development efforts that have an active role in creating partnerships and a business friendly environment: The Petersburg Economic Development Office maintains a listing of industrial sites and facilities for potential employers looking to expand or relocate operations. They also manage the two Enterprise Zones in Petersburg, which allows the City to offer state and local incentives to industries which locate new operations to these designated areas. The Industrial Development Authority is part of this office, although not active since about The Economic Development Office seeks to maintain communication with current industries in Petersburg and help with their needs for expansion or recruitment and relocation of associated suppliers to Petersburg. Crater Planning District Commission gets involved with economic development by offering loan packages to companies in Petersburg. The intent is to lessen the financial burden of starting or expanding business in the area. A revolving loan fund has a maximum of $250,00 loans and has funded 19 total loans, 16 of which have been businesses in Petersburg. The SBA 504 loans have a maximum of $4 million and have provided assistance through 70 total loans, with 12 of those for businesses in Petersburg. Virginia s Gateway Region markets the region and goes after specific industries looking to relocate or expand. Specific to Petersburg, the VGR markets industrial properties, the cultural, commercial and quality of life assets, and has sponsored several tours for developers and real estate professionals to showcase redevelopment and commercial opportunities in the region s urban areas. VGR has also partnered with the Cameron Foundation on redevelopment of the former Southside Regional Medical Center site. The Petersburg Chamber of Commerce works to help its members build their businesses by doing business with each other, by making referrals to member businesses in response to telephone and mail inquiries and through its website. Members are promoted through advertising, sponsorship, and referrals. The Cameron Foundation is a not-for-profit organization established to provide support for programs and activities that benefit the residents of the City of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Sussex and the portion of the county of Chesterfield south of Route 10. The Foundation provides grants 78

2 for the areas of healthcare, human services, civic affairs, community and economic development, education, conservation and historic preservation, and cultural enrichment. heightened the awareness of Petersburg s assets and helped the City better respond to the needs of these immediate neighbors as well. Virginia LISC arrived in Petersburg in 2005 with the support of the Cameron Foundation and by creating a grass roots based Strategic Investment Plan in conjunction with Urban Design Associates. They aim to revitalize Petersburg s neighborhoods by building quality affordable housing with their nonprofit and for-profit partners. In addition to jumpstarting revitalization through improving the housing stock, they have provided consultant services to local nonprofit groups (Pathways and the Restoration of Petersburg Development Corporation) in order to build capacity within Petersburg for a sustained revitalization and redevelopment of neglected neighborhoods. The Petersburg Department of Tourism Museum and Visitor Services introduces Petersburg to visitors from all over the world who are interested in hearing about and seeing the rich, 400-year history of Petersburg. At the City s three museums (Blandford Church & Cemetery, Centre Hill Museum, the Siege Museum) and the Visitor Centers both in Old Towne Petersburg at the historic, 1817 Farmers Bank and on I-95 at the Carson, Virginia, Rest Area, the Department showcases the unique features and qualities which make Petersburg such an important city. The Department promotes both the historical attributes of the City as well as the contemporary features such a dining, shopping, residential, and recreational which, fundamentally has resulted in enhancing revitalization, creating a more attractive, livable city. Partnering with Virginia State University and Fort Lee on various initiatives has 79

3 TABLE III-A Petersburg & Regional Economic Development Agencies and Efforts Networking / Business Retain Jobs Attract Jobs Educate or Train Workers Revitalization Marketing the Region Marketing Existing Sites Small Business Support Grants Petersburg Economic Development Office Crater Planning District Commission Virginia s Gateway Region Chamber of Commerce Cameron Foundation Historic Petersburg Foundation Virginia State University Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board Goodwill Industries Employment Center VEC Employment Commission Petersburg Area Tourism John Tyler College Virginia LISC The Phoenix Project Department of Tourism 80

4 Education & Economic Development The presence of higher education institutions in a community are an opportunity to build partnerships for economic development. In addition to being a resource for job training, community initiatives, volunteers, and internships, colleges and universities can provide strong support for the local retail market. Virginia State University, Richard Bland College, and John Tyler College are relatively untapped resources for the City of Petersburg. Engaging these Universities to identify areas where the City and Institutions can work together will open doors for redevelopment efforts and attracting jobs to the City. Virginia State University has formulated a Master Plan and a 20/20 plan in which they included representatives of the City of Petersburg in the planning process. Both plans present opportunities for the City of Petersburg to partner and capitalize on the expansion of programs and the University. However, the existing Master Plan calls for the majority of University improvements to orient the primary gateway and campus life to the Chesterfield and Colonial Heights entrance, with minimal connections and improvements associated with Petersburg. The main entrance to the University is no longer considered to be the historic entrance neighboring Petersburg along the Appomattox River. Yet the 20/20 plan calls for short, mid, and long range plans to play a role in assessing community needs and becoming involved in community development. With three localities bordering the University, and a shift in the primary gateway of the University, Petersburg needs to be a willing and pro-active partner to explore common ground with Virginia State University. The Phoenix Project is a non-profit group which has a unique presence in Petersburg. Its mission is to increase interaction between the community and higher education. It seeks to build capacity of non-profits and community partners through higher education-community partnerships. It hopes to involve University resources on specific economic and community development projects. To date, nine (9) higher education institutions, some 350 students, faculty, staff, and alumni with 55 nonprofit organizations and municipal agencies have completed an extensive variety of 150 capacity building projects. The Phoenix Project has conducted a planning process with support from the Jessie Ball dupont Fund which has led them to refocus their and partner efforts on four priorities in Petersburg: Improve relations and build partnerships with Fort Lee, Improve public schools Respond to the needs identified in the 2006 Supported Alternatives for our Valued Youth (SAVY) needs assessment, Support redevelopment of neighborhood infrastructure and housing led by organizations such as Virginia LISC. The projects which have been undertaken already in Petersburg, range from picking up trash along entrance corridors to researching legislation on blight abatement and seeking models of successful initiatives for turning the tide on Petersburg poor performing public school system. The City and its departments can embrace such efforts and seek to be an equal partner in initiatives to improve the lives of the City s residences. The Phoenix Project is a unique opportunity to utilize the presence of higher education institutions in the region for improving the economic development environment. 81

5 The Economy and Quality of Life Economic development improves the quality of life, but economic development is also dependent on the quality of life to recruit and retain businesses. In the Petersburg region there are localities which offer amenities not found in Petersburg, and despite existing regional approaches to economic development, the City faces competition from its surrounding localities which offer a higher quality of life. Improving the quality of life is the responsibility of the City government and this includes having good schools, safe neighborhoods, attractive housing, retail amenities, parks and recreation opportunities. The City of Petersburg must work with available resources to garner support to aggressively address the issues which hinder healthy, stable neighborhoods. If not all efforts can be tackled at once, a focused strategy and established priorities is necessary. To better compete for jobs and business, the City needs to deal with the issues which not only discourage business in the City, but also offer amenities which entice them to come to Petersburg. This is more than business incentives, and it takes a pro-active role of the City government to launch and follow through with initiatives, or to become an equal partner in existing efforts. Some of the initiatives where the City is needed as an equal partner are named in the recommendations section. Petersburg s Economic Standing The sheer size of Petersburg has afforded it relatively undeveloped land still within its limits. Rural and vacant land within the city is an attractive asset for industrial, retail and residential development. It is also a scarce resource. The revenue and synergy from new developments must be balanced with efforts to revitalize declining areas if the City is to comprehensively support economic vitality in the long run. Interviews with various economic development partners and agencies in Petersburg have revealed valuable input on the perceived status of economic development efforts. Several themes are listed below: Petersburg has the opportunity and potential to revitalize and turn itself around, but the failure of the City to have a sustained and focused strategic vision is an obstacle to overcome. Economic development partners are frustrated with the reactive nature of the City. While always eager when a prospective employer shows up, the City does not actively market itself with a strategic message linked to strategic redevelopment efforts. The City s priorities are too often the items which are currently placed before decision makers, and no greater vision dictates the decision making process on development and revitalization. This prevents the City from taking a proactive role. Multiple economic development opportunities exist on the horizon Fort Lee s expansion, the former Southside Regional Medical Center site, and the downtown harbor redevelopment The City is not an equal partner in economic development efforts which are taken up by non-profits and regional agencies on Petersburg s behalf. 82

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