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Greenville tops list for new jobs

Everyone knows that Greenville is known as the City of Smiles, and when Alabama Gov. Bob Riley announced that the city now ties with another city for economic development in 2004, the smiles got bigger.

The magazine Southern Business and Development will announce in its edition next week that Alabama, which added 19,000 new jobs since January 2003, was awarded the &uot;2004 State of the Year&uot; with more than 500 companies either locating in or expanding their businesses in the state.

It will also announce that Greenville tied for first with Ennis, Texas in the &uot;Small Market of the Year&uot; category.

Executive Director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development Ricky McLaney was ecstatic over the news.

&uot;It is great,&uot; he said. &uot;Southern Magazine particularly focuses on the automotive industry. A lot of companies read it to see the goings on in the automotive industry. They see how active the South is in that area.&uot;

He said this is the third or fourth year they magazine presented this award.

&uot;We were just fortunate to get in there,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s every city with a population of less than 250,000 so there was a lot of competition.&uot;

This is the second consecutive year Alabama’s economic growth record has earned it the honor and the first time Greenville has received a ranking.

&uot;Our ranking as number one is a monumental accomplishment recognizing that Alabama is the place where there are more jobs, more prosperity and more opportunity,&uot; Governor Riley said.

&uot;When I came into office, our state had been experiencing growth primarily in the automobile sector.

I instructed the Alabama Development Office to widen the playing field to all parts of the state and to other industries so we could give more Alabamians opportunities for better jobs. We’ve accomplished this mission, while maintaining remarkable growth in the auto sector.

From the Tennessee border to the Gulf of Mexico, and all points in-between, the job opportunities and the prosperity they create have been spread across Alabama as never before.&uot;

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said the announcement reflects the hard work of the last few years.

&uot;Just another positive story that is coming out about Greenville,&uot; he said.

&uot;This is another sign that lets us all know that all the hard work of the last few years, is paying off.

It also shows that other people throughout Alabama and the southeast are now paying attention to us.&uot;

McLendon said the announcement enhances Greenville’s economic development plans. He said this makes a great tool for working with companies.

&uot;We had national exposure because the story went out through the Associated Press and it appeared in USA Today and also in other national publications, so we’ll get calls from different companies,&uot; he said.

&uot;We had a company visit here this afternoon out of the blue,&uot; he said Friday afternoon. &uot;They wanted to look around the area.

If they locate here, that will be another 130 jobs.

So I don’t know if the article helped or not, but it is a big tool for us.&uot;

On Thursday, Gov. Riley held a conference call with four newspapers including the Advocate.

Referencing the award, Governor Riley said that Alabama’s growing automotive industry is an &uot;economic pillar&uot; of the state and responsible for the state receiving the award in 2003, but said other industries are also responsible for the new jobs and economic growth the state has experienced recently.

&uot;We are moving toward a different type of industry because we are moving away from textile jobs,&uot; Riley said during the call. &uot;If you look at the success that these foreign companies have had in Alabama…I think it is a real testament to the work force that we have in Alabama.&uot;

Riley praised the Alabama worker.

&uot;All of us like to take credit for this, but it really needs to go to that Alabama worker,&uot; he said.

&uot;Having the opportunity to talk to people all over the country…literally all over the world and they tell you that the new message is that no matter what kind of goal you put before Alabamians they exceed it.&uot;

As for Greenville’s being named the best in the small markets, Riley had nothing but praise for this area.

&uot;I told the group that was here on Wednesday that winning this out of 17 states, we take a lot of satisfaction out of it,&uot; he said.

&uot;When you look at what Greenville with all the other cities and towns they had to compete with and end up in first place, that is truly something to be proud of.&uot;

Riley said Greenville was a great model for knowing the right thing to do to bring in new industry.

While the tidal wave of Hyundai support industry announcements has waned a bit, according to Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, a private, non-profit organization that assists the state with its economic development efforts, the trend of industrial announcements in rural areas such as Georgiana, Greenville, Hayneville, Luverne, Brantley and Highland Home is alive and well.

&uot;Many rural communities in the state have seized the opportunity to attract investment from the automotive industry,&uot; he said. &uot;These communities have done an exceptional job of demonstrating the advantages they offer to automotive suppliers. Automotive-related companies looking in the state have discovered that rural communities offer a dedicated work force, good infrastructure and a very supportive environment for industry. There are many sites still available in rural communities throughout the state.&uot;

Economic development officials say rural areas are successful because they offer, among other things, low operational costs, an available work force with a very strong work ethic and strong local community and governmental support.

McLendon said smaller communities like Greenville and Georgiana can use this award to its advantage.

&uot;There is a snowball effect,&uot; he said.

&uot;Once you get your message out for companies to see, bigger and better things begin to happen,&uot; he said.

&uot;I think our future is bright.&uot;

McLendon also said Greenville’s aggressiveness following the initial Hyundai announcement also helped.

&uot;Our billboard sent the message that we were open for business and that were going to be aggressive and will continue to be aggressive,&uot; McLendon said of the advertisement inside Montgomery on Interstate 65.

&uot;We sent out the message to the Hyundai people and many more that Greenville and Butler County were open for business,&uot; he said. &uot;We have proved that the cities in this county and the county commission work well together in bringing in new companies.&uot;

In its comments relating to Alabama’s ranking Southern Business and development said &uot;If you study the numbers, Alabama’s economy may indeed be one of the best state economies in the country right now.&uot;

Neal Wade, director of the Alabama Development Office, said,

&uot;Alabama has become the nation’s leader in automotive plant growth for the past five years and we have been ranked number one for business vitality by the Center for Enterprise Development.

Worldwide attention has been placed on Alabama as we now have a proven track record of being able to attract high profile industries to the state.&uot;

As everyone knows, during the last legislative session, attempts were made to pull money away from ADECA to fun the budgets.

The governor stepped forward and came up with some creative revenue like cigarette taxes and nursing home bed taxes.

He said there are no assurances that it won’t happen again.

&uot;It we had taken $110 million out of the budget, it would have been difficult for us to continue to be competitive in economic development,&uot; he said.

&uot;Once it’s gone, the money is gone.&uot;

Dennis Palmer contributed to this report.