A strategic plan for the future was the main topic of discussion at the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s regular February business meeting.

The board met Friday morning in the IDA conference room at the Southern Virginia Technology Park.

“This (plan) is for our board to have a common goal and vision,” said IDA executive director Brian Brown. “We want to be open. We want to let the community know what we’re doing, and this is a good way to start that.”

Brown discussed the IDA’s strategic goals, including identifying/ developing product, sites and buildings in the county to market; gathering and sharing information to communicate the IDA’s activities and successes; strengthening the existing business program and optimizing the IDA’s organizational structure, including staffing and roles to maximize the potential for success.

Tracy Mallard joined the IDA staff on Feb. 1 as the new assistant director, and she told the board at Friday’s meeting that she plans to redesign the IDA’s current marketing materials, which are geared toward business attraction, to focus more on talent attraction.

In her previous role at Noblis in Danville, Mallard created a corporate community engagement strategy to develop and retain technology talent in Southern Virginia.

Along with working as a team with his staff, Brown said he views partnership and collaboration with other groups and organizations in the community as key to the IDA’s success.

Along those lines, Brown shared that the IDA is partnering with the towns of Halifax and South Boston to apply for a USDA Rural Development grant to start a revolving loan fund to help start-up and existing businesses with low-interest financing for working capital, improvements and hiring.

“We’re trying to be that influencer and advocate for business,” Brown said.

Recruiting new industry is another goal of the IDA, and Brown at Friday’s meeting updated the board with the status of a project related to that priority area.

The IDA plans to break ground on a new shell building on March 6 at 10 a.m. at the Southern Virginia Technology Park. The building will provide 50,000 square feet of space to market to prospective industry. The building is jointly funded by the county and a grant from the Tobacco Commission.

Brown also updated the board on a project to boost the agriculture industry. He said the IDA has recently secured a grant from the Tobacco Commission Agribusiness Committee for building upfit for the creation of a hemp processing facility in Halifax County.

Brown discussed the IDA’s collaborative efforts to provide assistance to employees and employers, as well.

He shared that the IDA partnered with Virginia Career Works and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to provide access to trade act benefits for the former ABB employees who were laid off in January. A job fair originally scheduled for Feb. 7 has been postponed due to weather, and a new date will be announced soon.

The IDA is partnering with the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Small Business Development Center at Longwood University to offer a free employer information session on March 12 at 11 a.m. at 180 Factory St., South Boston.

Dr. Vincent Magnini, executive director of the Institute for Service Reseach, will lead the session.

As Friday’s meeting drew to a close, board members expressed their satisfaction with the IDA staff’s work on the strategic plan, along with planning for a recent GO Virginia Region 3 meeting.

Board member Nancy Pool thanked the board and board member Brandon Scearce thanked the staff for their commitment to Tuesday’s GO Virginia 3 Region meeting at The Prizery, in which Virginia Economic Development Partnership briefed the crowd on its recently completed site characterization project.

The site characterization project gives localities a chance to see the readiness of their industrial sites and prioritize the continued development of potentially high impact sites to make them more competitive.

“I just wanted to thank the entire staff for all the work getting prepared for that meeting…and the level of detail you guys have gone into in such a short period of time so we can assess what sites we currently have, so we can best utilize those sites,” Scearce said. “I appreciate all the work that you’ve done getting us to this point, and I’m very excited for the next few months.”

Board chairman Robert Bates had similar thoughts.

“I’d like to thank everyone for your commitment,” Bates said. “I really think we’ve got some exciting things going, and I’m just looking forward to what the future holds.”

The IDA board’s next business meeting is set for March 13. At that time, Mitzi McCormick, president and CEO of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, plans to join the board to lead a discussion on the community strategic plan.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.