King Midas#039; speaks to industries

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2001

Before a full house, Dr. David G. Bronner, CEO of the Retirement System of Alabama spoke to the Butler County Manufacturers Association, delivering a message concerning community growth.

Gathering at the conference facility of the Cambrian Ridge Golf Course, the group enjoyed a social hour courtesy of Colonial Bank, followed by a meal provided by Cambrian Ridge and the Butler County Manufacturers Association.

Revered by many as "King Midas" for all of his success in investments on behalf of the Alabama Retirement System, and credited with major economic growth for communities all over the state, Bronner spoke regarding future growth for the Butler County area.

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"The Greenville and Butler County area has two of the five necessary characteristics that are considered to be vital to a community's success," Bronner said. "This area has both recreation and the interstate. Another key element, research, is actually the backbone of the five."

Citing location to major cities, Bronner illustrated the third step.

"Research is a major plus in any area's development," he said. "Proximity to the state's capital at Montgomery, could cause this to become the next bedroom community for it."

As an example, Bronner discussed Millbrook.

"Millbrook grew from a population of 3,000 to nearly 20,000 in 10 years," Bronner said. "You have to keep one thing in mind-being prepared."Bronner said the fourth element of success in growth is education.

"You have to have a good public school system-if you do, you can recruit industry," he said. "It is all connected together-what will keep your children at home is available work, and to do that, you have to be attractive to industry."

Regarding the issue of public schools, Bronner became emphatic.

"I'm dead serious about this-if you care about your community, support your public school system. If you don't give a damn, then just sit on your duffs."

Bronner has been credited with masterminding the development of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which was financed by the Retirement System of Alabama.

"Think about what has happened to Greenville since this golf course was developed," he said. "Look at all the motels that have sprouted up-do you think you guys are staying in them every night?"

Next, Bronner discussed investments.

"What is your biggest personally-owned investment? It is your home," he said. "Now look at Hoover, Vestavia, Mountainbrook and Auburn. Once their school systems became the top in the state, the property values in their communities skyrocketed."

Then Bronner compared those communities to Butler County.

"If five to ten years from now your school system is comparable to theirs, your home values will increase 25 to 50 percent," he said.

"Regarding the disputes at the statewide disputes between K-12 and higher education-this is nonsense," Bronner said. "It reminds me of what Kissinger must have felt like while he was dealing with the Jews and the Arabs."

Bronner was very outspoken about Alabama's tax system, and he received some rebuttal on this subject from a businessman who said he moved here from Tennessee two years ago.

"Alabama is the lowest taxed state in America-we are only one of three states that tax incomes under $10,000, in fact, we tax after $5,000-which means we are a system based on taxing the poor," Bronner said. "Being the lowest taxed state is not good for us, because we still have to meet the minimum needs of all citizens.

"For example, a 1980 study indicated that a state the size of Alabama should have at least 900 State Troopers-right now we only have 297 troopers in the state," he said. "People, the Birmingham News might say that we have three Troopers on the highways of Alabama after midnight, but I am here to tell you that is not the case-we have three troopers out after midnight if they are called out for such things as motor vehicle accidents."

Bronner then made a prediction of the trooper situation.

"I predict that by the end of this year, we will only have 230-240 Troopers statewide-they are grossly underpaid, with top salaries of around $35,000," he said. "They have to cannibalize patrol cars-that is to take parts from one car to repair another because they cannot afford to operate all the cars in the fleet.

"I know you cannot help with state problems, but you need to help with your own-help your public schools-this growth will start when local citizens care about their local schools," he said. "It has made the Auburn-Opelika area what it is today," he said. "Another example of the funding of services is the foster care system-We pay about $8 per day per child-we used to be 50th in the nation regarding foster care, but now we are 52nd, because even Puerto Rico spends more on foster care."

With regard to the RTJ Golf Trail, Bronner said there is more concentration on adding to existing courses than the development of new courses right now.

"We are seeking to add more holes to our existing courses in an effort to attract more recreation and tourism to the state," Bronner said. "And that will help all areas on the trail, not just the areas where additions are placed."

In closing, Bronner again emphasized on the public school issues.

"The most important part of the elements for success in growth is your public school system-you have one of the best school facilities in the state-but you have to keep it growing and improving."