County passes test tour–Governor and his team visit Butler County to evaluate infrastructure
The best small town in America passed yet another test Wednesday, and once again with flying colors. But this test will not yield only a nationally coveted title, but international fame that could bring with it something even more coveted
As part of his "Communities of Excellence" tour, Gov. Don Siegelman, along with his team from the Center for Economic Growth, toured the city as a possible Hyundai-related industry in search of the right place to locate its business.
"To communities across south and central Alabama, Hyundai brings hope, and you can't put a price on that," said Siegelman. "We're here today to ensure that communities like Greenville do everything they can to put their best foot forward and turn that hope into new jobs for their citizens."
And Greenville did just that.
The tour started at the city's most recent project of expansion, the Mac Crenshaw Memorial Airport, which is only one of the major factors considered by corporations in locating their business. According to the Communities of Excellence 10 Steps to Success, a regional airport can be the critical factor in attracting new industry or enhancing existing ones as companies look for airports that accommodate corporate jets and cargo aircraft.
From the airport, the team traveled through Greenville to the Butler County Industrial Park, also a new edition to Greenville, whose buildings are being leased or sold before they are completed, and could be the possible site of Hyundai-related industry.
The team then traveled through downtown
where Mayor Dexter McLendon explained that the city had spent approximately $800,000 renovating downtown.
"The single most important thing is showing that we are making the extra effort," said Siegelman. "I love this old downtown area. I started traveling this state in 1972, and I have watched Greenville over the years, and it looks great here."
Breed Technologies, a supplier of steering wheels for John Deere, in the Greenville Industrial Park was the next stop for the governor and his team. After a whirlwind tour of the plant with Operations/Engineering Manager Wayne Ausderau, Plant Manager Randy Nykamp gave an overview of Breed.
"This plant made only a half-million dollar profit last year, which makes us only a marginal contributor to the corporation and that is not where we want to be. We have a capabilities and a history of accomplishment which is why we are still here. We used to be a Hyundai seat belt supplier and employed 1,800 people, but we currently employ only 118. But, we have the space and ability to increase. We have to get above $5 million in additional sales to solidify this location. We have the resources, experience, space and motivation to make just about anything for them. In addition, we have a billion dollar corporation in terms of resources behind this plant with engineering resources in Detroit and England," said Nykamp.
"This is exactly what the Center of Economic Growth was created for. We want to focus on existing businesses to try to create new markets, new opportunities and new jobs at existing locations. Seventy percent of new jobs are created through an existing business and this is a perfect example of why we focus on that. Your commitment to quality and long-time commitment also is very important. If we are successful in getting an automotive supplier, it will reach far beyond this community."
From the industrial park, the team traveled to the new Greenville High School, which the governor said is one of the other aspects that is important in locating industry.
The tour ended at Cambrian Ridge Golf Course, where the governor gave his final remarks.
"We have seen a lot of good things here today, and you are all putting your best foot forward. This is a spectacular community and I don't know of anything that I can say or do that will help to polish your image. What I am going to work hard to do is make sure the 20 Tier-1 suppliers locate here in Alabama. This is the beginning of a very exciting process and there is no other state or country in the world that has been able to locate four of the top automotive companies as has Alabama," he said.
Mayor Dexter McLendon thanked the governor for conducting the tour and met with other area officials and visitors in a brainstorming session to examine improvements that could be made.
"The governor is very interested in Greenville and concerned with some areas such as finance and infrastructure with the new industrial park. He did show a lot of interest in the airport project and the importance of the airport being completed before the suppliers get here," he said.
"They were very impressed with the community support between the county and the city. They talked about us working together and how that is very important. They didn't have any suggestions except to move forward as fast as we could with the new industrial park, to get it up and running. We basically have things in place," said McLendon.
"I think the tour went really great," said Daniel Robinson, chairman of the Butler County Commission. "When we were walking through Breed, Gov. Siegelman must have shook hands with everyone he passed, and that's what makes him so unique. He is a people person and he mixes with everyday people; a lot of special interest people won't do that. We're lucky to have him working so hard for us."
"In general, they were impressed," said Ricky McLaney, director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. "I credit that to a lot of reasons. I think they have learned the importance of sending people to an area in advance. It went really smoothly and they were really impressed with the airport and the industrial park expansions. That is a pat on the back for our city council and county commission because they have worked really hard to make those improvements."
The Center for Economic Growth was created by Siegelman earlier this month as part of the Alabama Development Office to focus on the expansion of existing industry and to create a state-sponsored "Communities of Excellence" program designed to help communities position themselves to better recruit and retain industry. The aggressive timetable set by Hyundai to being its automotive manufacturing operation in Montgomery has given rise to an accelerated need to locate Tier-One and other automotive suppliers.
The director of the center, Nexton Marshall, and his deputy, Lance Brown, also were part of the touring team Wednesday.