Airport expansion important to development

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 3, 2001

One of the pleasures I have in serving as your senator is to participate in public celebrations of significant, positive happenings in a community in my district. Such was the case last week when I joined several public officials and community-spirited individuals in announcing a multi-million dollar grant to extend the airport runway in Greenville.

The ceremony was directed by the very aggressive and well-liked Greenville Mayor, Dexter McLendon, and the master of ceremonies was Ricky McLaney, the director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. The State Director of Transportation, Paul Bowlin, was present and made a speech, and my colleague, Charles Newton, and I had the privilege of making some brief remarks.

United States Senator Richard Shelby was recognized for his role in securing a major part of these funds through the federal budget, and the State of Alabama provided some matching funds to make the project complete. The monies will be used to extend the airport runway by some 1500 feet, making it eligible to receive corporate jets and large planes, which are frequently used by industry and businesses that are located in the area.

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Economic development is crucial to the viability and growth of our rural areas in Alabama. Those counties and communities which have not had a major industry come into their area in the last several years have suffered the brunt of our economic downturn and generally have the highest unemployment rate.

It has been my experience that to attract a good industry, a community must be prepared to receive that industry, and sometimes it would surprise you what goes into the &uot;formula&uot; to be prepared. Last week I obtained from the Alabama Development Office a questionnaire which several industrial prospects send to our state inquiring about the availability of certain things within the respective communities where they might consider locating.

High on this list was an inquiry about the education system. Industrial prospects want to provide the best possible educational opportunities for their employees, many of whom uproot their children who are already in school when they move to a new site. So naturally, the local situation regarding the schools is most important to an industrial prospect.

Corporate executives like to have easy access to their plants and that is why the size and length of the airport runway is important. It must be of such a size that it can accommodate corporate jets. This seems like a small thing in some respects, but it could be just the factor which determines whether or not an industry selects a given community. Greenville is certainly going to be well prepared for this item on the &uot;checklist.&uot;

It might surprise you to know that this list includes an inquiry about recreational opportunities, including golf courses. Large companies put a great deal of emphasis on the amenities that keep their employees happy. Statewide, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has played a key role in economic development of our state. It is a priority with me as your senator to support the communities in my district in their efforts to satisfy all of the &uot;checklist&uot; items, to attract industry. It provides jobs for our people and it keeps our communities viable.

Remember, &uot;I'll go with you or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. You may reach me at 334-335-3449 or 334-242-7883.