The bad news, that Brown & Williamson Tobacco would be shutting down operations in this city, was expected. But the cigarette maker left behind an unexpected gift last week, donating to the city a $2 million warehouse complex.
Brown & Williamson is the nation's third-largest cigarette manufacturer, behind R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, and is the maker of Kool and Viceroy brand cigarettes.
In the 1970s, the company was one of Petersburg's largest employers, with a payroll of more than 5,000. But profitability steadily dropped in Petersburg, and the company had announced plans to move manufacturing operations to a more modern facility in Macon, Ga.
The 47-acre complex, which contains 38 warehouses covering more than 625,000 square feet, will likely become an urban enterprise zone. The site "is very adaptable," according to Mayor Florence Farley.
"The city will use a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the city's $333,000 matching funds to develop the property," she said.
The money will go to "develop the infrastructure and the type of utilities necessary to attract businesses."
The idea of donating the property was first suggested by a civic group in January. T. E. Sandefur Jr., president of the Louisville-based cigarette maker, made the official presentation to the city.