The Halifax Industrial Development Authority’s executive director Brian Brown was fired in a special called IDA board meeting Thursday afternoon in the IDA boardroom. Brown has been the leader of the Halifax IDA for a little more than a year; he was hired in August 2019.
“We as a board decided we needed to move in a new direction and in order to do that, we had to let Brian Brown go as the executive director,” said Halifax IDA board chairman Robert Bates, on Friday morning.
The Halifax IDA board has another special called meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in the IDA boardroom at the Southern Virginia Technology Park on Confroy Drive. Bates said the board is meeting to discuss plans for the future of the IDA, although it is unknown whether a decision will be made regarding the IDA’s leadership at that time.
Attempts to reach Brown for comment were unsuccessful as of press time Sunday. Brown was living in Roanoke and working as a market executive for real estate developers Countryside Service Company of Staunton when he was hired as executive director of the IDA, filling the position vacated by the former director Matt Leonard in November 2018.
The board’s decision to fire Brown comes on the heels of an Oct. 16 joint meeting between the Halifax IDA board and the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, in which Brown detailed environmental problems that a recent assessment had revealed at the former Daystrom furniture building (now known as the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center). The board of supervisors questioned whether more money needed to be spent on a building that still does not have a “clean bill of health” with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and therefore cannot be placed on the market.
Brown also told the board of supervisors at that meeting the IDA was “struggling” going through the current budget year because of two major projects, the first of which has been deemed a success by local and state leaders. The first project was the IDA’s purchase of the former Blue Ridge Beverage Company building on Houghton Avenue, which now houses a large-scale industrial hemp processing facility, Golden Piedmont Labs. A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility, which is the first of its kind in Virginia, was held on Oct. 15.
The other major project is the construction of a shell building at the entrance of Southern Virginia Technology Park, which is slated for completion in the next couple of weeks. Brown said the purpose of constructing the shell building was to have a move-in ready building so Halifax County would be competitive with surrounding counties in attracting manufacturing companies to the area.
In addition to hiring and firing Brown within the past 15 months, the IDA board has also hired a new deputy director. South Boston native Tracy Mallard was hired to fill the role of assistant director in January of this year and began serving in that role in February.
Mallard declined to comment on Brown’s termination and whether or not it would impact her role with the IDA.