Selling Covington County

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

County, city leaders in Korea exploring Hyundai options

By Jeremy Godfrey

Covington County may soon find itself being served a piece of the Hyundai pie, thanks in part to a visit from several local officials and the governor.

A total of about 30 Alabama representatives, including Governor Bob Riley, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, Covington County Economic Development Commission Director Tuscon Roberts, Southeast Alabama Gas District CEO Jim Smith, Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White, and Covington Electric Cooperative CEO Ed Short, left for Seoul Monday to meet with Hyundai delegates.

Local officials will attempt "to sell" the county on the possibility of having a second-tier manufacturer locate in Covington County, according to CCEDC Manager Gail Trant.

"Representatives from the city and county will be there all this week," she said. "We're hopefully trying to get interest from the company about our community."

Some of the interest could come from a number of resources offered by the community, added Trant.

"Quality of life, schools, and transportation in the area would all be selling-points," she continued. "The good reputation of schools would be important for families, and the location of near-by highways and interstates are of interest. These aspects and others would be important to people living in the area and to people employed through the manufacturer."

Trant added the relatively quick access to Interstate 65 to Montgomery would be important, and the short distances to a couple of first-tier manufacturers, who accept parts from second-tier suppliers, in Luverne and Enterprise should be taken into consideration.

"The company is branching out further, and second-tier manufacturers will allow them to do so," she said.

The competition will be tight, according to Trant.

"Surrounding counties are also hoping to get a second-tier manufacturer," she said. "They (company delegates) haven't let us know if they are looking at one community or not. We're not real concerned about other counties, but other economic developments in these areas would let us know if anything has been set up."

Some of the other communities interested in second-tier manufacturers include neighboring cities, such as Elba, according to White's wife, Jan.

"The mayor of Elba was on the plane with the other (Alabama) representatives," she said.

It is important to note nothing has been established with second-tier manufacturers yet, said Trant.

"Businessmen will be there from the surrounding area to give all the information about their communities," she said. "We're trying to get our name on the slot (of second-tier suppliers), but I don't know of any commitments that have been made. Nothing is concrete, yet."

Although obtaining a second-tier supplier is uncertain at this point, Trant said representatives from the county will try their best.

"We don't want to get peoples' hopes up and shed light on the subject if something doesn't happen," she said. "But we do want the public to know we are trying our best to bring the jobs here. We do a good job selling the community. We also work to get other industries in the area, and a second-tier supplier in the area would be relatively close to the first-tier supplier in Enterprise."

Trant said the county would not be able to get a first-tier supplier, because a policy implemented at the beginning of this year restricts suppliers to be outside of a 60-mile radius from the main plant.

"A lot of people wonder why they (Enterprise and Luverne) got them (first-tier suppliers), and we didn't," she said. "But they got to it before the 60-mile rule was in effect."

Trant said Roberts would present to Hyundai all of the attractive aspects of the community.

"He basically took Power point presentations with information of facts and figures of locations in the area that would be what they are looking for to ship to and from the supplier," she said. "He is well-equipped with all the information to help the county. We all want to see something like this come to the area."