Petersburg Economic Development Director Builds on Decades of Relationships

Rarely does a city employee walk into a new job with the breadth of experience and relationships that Brian A. Moore brought to Petersburg in 2022. As its new director of economic development, Moore had the rare credentials of three decades of leadership roles as its one-time mayor and former city council member.

Moore knows his depth of front-line leadership becomes a priceless advantage as he recruits new corporate investments to Petersburg and provides timely, valuable resources that existing companies – both small and large – need to grow within the city’s limits.

Not only does he know many of the local businesses and residents across the city, but he has worked for years with the different city and state agencies and departments that are essential to a successful economic development strategy.

His overall vision for Petersburg in this role starts by aligning with the city’s strategic plan. The five-year plan outlines specific economic development goals, including business growth and retention, plus building a stronger workforce.

“My background is a good fit,” Moore admits. “Building the relationships usually is the hardest part of the job, but that’s not really an issue for me.”

Much of that effort will be focused on luring new businesses and expansion in the Poor Creek area in the city’s southeast corner. That location allows for easy access to the major I-95, I-85, and Route 460 thoroughfares, along with opportunities for partnerships with neighboring Prince George County. The region also offers one of the last major undeveloped urban regions along the north-south train lines, adding another layer of appeal to corporations.

“Being part of Virginia’s Gateway Region is another crucial element,” he said. “The group helps to generate leads and provide a sounding board that is essential in getting to successful completion on our projects.”

Petersburg is looking to its past in building its future. From its roots in cotton and tobacco, to the transition to steel mills and luggage in the later part of the 20th century, the city now is positioned for emerging sectors, including hydrogen production required for data centers and pharmaceutical production. Recent upgrades and investments by Dominion Energy and Mid-Atlantic Broadband mean the locality can directly serve the electric and data distribution needs of those models.

Petersburg already serves as home for a group of drug manufacturers, in part through the Medicines for All Institute, part of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering, AMPAC Fine Chemicals, Civica Rx and Phlow Corp, which will use advanced manufacturing practices developed at the institute.

Moore knows that the businesses he helps to bring to Petersburg will need local workers, and his focus is on developing training to be offered within the city. Brightpoint Community College and Virginia State University also provide workforce training resources. “If we say we are bringing jobs to our region, we need to offer the training for the region,” he added.

Moore also is an advocate for supporting small businesses. The city already has presented a round of grants of up to $25,000, which recipients are using to sustain them through startup status or buy new equipment.

Collaborative city efforts to generate a thriving downtown community are starting to pay off. An L.L. Bean pop-up store – from the legendary Maine-based retailer – in December attracted notable crowds, and 10 businesses in Old Towne reported record sales days.

Right now, only 6% of the city’s population lives downtown, but Moore notes that more buildings are being converted into lofts and apartments. A recent uptick in the number of restaurants earning quality reviews is bringing traffic to the heart of the city. And a renovated boutique facility, The Hotel Petersburg, will open later this year.

“Business follows rooftops,” he said. “Petersburg is a great city to be in, and our best assets are our people.”