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New hire takes charge of IDA

South Boston News
Brown / August 19, 2019
Halifax County has a new leader of its economic development effort: Brian Brown, who brings lengthy experience as a business recruiter in the public and private sector to the job of executive director of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

Brown, who will earn a starting salary of $105,000, begins work on Sept. 1. His hiring was approved by IDA directors on Friday.

Brown succeeds Matt Leonard, who departed by mutual agreement with the IDA on Nov. 1. He will take over leadership of the group from interim director Kristy Johnson, who will remain on the staff.

Brown’s hiring was hailed by IDA chairman Robert Bates, who said the new director emerged from “a strong pool of candidates” to chose from. “Mr. Brown impressed both the search committee and the whole board with his experience, his understanding of Halifax County, and his approach to economic development and community building,” stated Bates.

“We look forward to having him as a member of the community.”

Brown, a resident of Roanoke, most recently was employed as a market executive for Countryside Services Company, which develops real estate in Staunton. Before that, he worked for 10 years in local economic development, most recently as economic development director for the City of Buena Vista. Before then, he was economic development director for the City of Roanoke.

His private sector experience includes a stint as a marketing coordinator and business development representative for Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Matthern, a Roanoke-based engineering firm. He has also worked for a security services firm, handling business development, and as a newspaper journalist. A series of articles he wrote on the issuance of speeding tickets on Interstate 85 won a Best in Show prize in the 2000 News Contest held by the Virginia Press Association

As Buena Vista’s economic director, Brown said his office was able to raise manufacturing employment in the city by 75 percent and average plant wages by 25 percent, by focusing on recruitment of companies in the advanced manufacturing sector.

He said he wants to replicate that success in Halifax County.

“We set our workforce up to be prepared for that … getting people trained in those higher-end credentialed jobs is what helped lead us to being able to get those expansions,” Brown said.

Three successful recruitment efforts powered the gains in Buena Vista, he said: HDT Global, which built expeditionary shelter systems for military and civilian use, and two HVAC systems companies, Modine Manufacturing and Munters Corporation.

HDT Global, after it expanded into Bueva Vista in 2012, closed up shop in 2016, idling some 80 workers, according to news accounts of the plant closing at the time.

Brown said he was attracted to the Halifax IDA position because many of the building blocks are in place here for a successful economic development effort. Among the “many pieces” that should help attract future prospects are the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, Virginia International Raceway and the community’s natural beauty and overall quality of life.

“I think you’re really poised for some opportunities that can be a game changer,” he said.

Brown said he would pursue “a full economic development strategy” with the IDA — carrying out the standard role of the executive director, to woo outside businesses, but also keeping tabs on existing business with “a set visitation piece” and “key business account program.”

Brown said he also wants to create advisory councils with plant managers and human resources directors “so that we can get a true understanding of what the workforce needs are for our existing industries, and poise ourselves for bringing in suppliers as well as growing those industries and additional jobs.”

He emphasized the importance of workforce development and said he would work with the SHVEC, local employment agencies and the school division to ensure that Halifax County meets the labor needs of prospective companies.

“I think anytime you look in terms of industry and development, you have to look at the educational attainment within the community. So we will be looking at that closely and working with whoever can to advise as we move forward,” he said.

Brown will be moving here from Roanoke soon. His employment contract with the IDA is for an indefinite term, with performance reviews conducted annually by IDA board directors.

A graduate of Longwood College and Liberty University, where he obtained bachelor’s degrees in political science and social science, respectively, Brown is married and has two children. His wife, Vicki, is a public school teacher in the Roanoke area; their son, Alec, 23, is employed in corrections, and their daughter, Jessica, 18, is a rising freshman at University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Brown, an avid baseball fan and ball team manager, praised Halifax County for its “incredible outdoor recreation” and said he would replicate his efforts in Buena Vista to create an online guide of the area’s natural assets. “The beauty of the area is another reason I came,” he said.

The IDA’s search for a new director was guided by The Berkley Group, a talent evaluation and recruitment consulting firm.

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A waste of tax money. 105K? The IDA should be disbanded.


Agreed allpolitical2, PLUS they don't hire LOCAL for these highest positions, yet always whine and question why we have no young people electing to stay here while the Chamber of Commerce pushes "BUY LOCAL" yet our governing bodies don't lead by example. My guess is this man will be an escape goat after his contract is up and we still have nothing to show for it. (Other than grant funded projects which is all this county seems to be getting).

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