Youngkin partnership pushes Petersburg’s economic health

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/25/2022, 6 p.m.
Majority-black Petersburg is getting special treatment from Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin.

Majority-black Petersburg is getting special treatment from Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin.

On Monday, as the city began using $2.6 million in state funding to tear down a long vacant Ramada Inn that is regarded as the community’s “worst eyesore” to open up land for new development, the Republican governor offered additional help for the Cockade City.

He and his cabinet announced a state partnership with the city and private organizations to improve education, health care, transit services, infrastructure and public safety and stimulate the economy.

“Why? Because Petersburg matters,” said the governor, a potential presidential candidate down the road who hopes to make the city a model for what a Republican administration can do for struggling urban areas.

Mayor Sam Parham said that the new Part- nership for Petersburg is coming together “at a turning point in our history.

“We have a casino coming,” he said, and the city is becoming a significant hub in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

He described the partnership as a commitment from the governor and his cabinet “to forge a real bond” with the city and people-helping nonprofit partners.

State Sen. Joseph D. Morrissey was equally enthusiastic, calling the announcement of the partnership “a red-letter day for the city.”

Petersburg Delegate Kim Taylor described the partnership as “an opportunity to strengthen our community by creating bipartisan solutions” that uplift the community.

The governor announced that the partnership would bring “more than 40 initiatives to make a significant difference in the lives and livelihoods of Petersburg’s people and the economic health of the city.”

Petersburg has a population of 33,458 people, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. The median income level is $43,029 and nearly 23 percent of its residents fall in the poverty category.

The initiatives include some projects that are already underway, such as developing a transit hub within the city, modernizing the Petersburg-Ettrick train station and adding more train service.

Another project is a $29 million investment the General Assembly approved in the new budget to aid the city in replacing underground pipes and expand sewer service in the Poor Creek area.

Other initiatives would be new or to expand existing programs. For example, Virginia State University students are to be recruited to serve as mentors and tutors for Petersburg students through a partnership between the Urban League and the university.

Also, Communities in Schools, the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs are to expand their offerings to provide year-round academic and enrichment programming before, during and after school, according to the Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera.

In a bid to address health challenges and improve access to care, Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Little touted plans to expand the hours of the health department, partner with hospitals and health groups to provide more mobile clinics and create community health literacy hubs to spread information.

As part of improving public safety and to assist Petersburg’s Police Department, the city will get assistance from the State Police, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to take over more prosecutions of people involved in violent crime.

Plans also call for the city to hire a group violence intervention coordinator to focus on reducing violence involving gangs.

One initiative also would seek to make more ambulances available for emergency response by finding alternative ways to provide non-emergency transports.

“Overall, we’re talking about creating real change,” Mayor Parham said. “No doubt about it, we’re a city on the move.”