Published 12:01 am Friday, August 16, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley throws out the ceremonial first pitch to open the Babe Ruth W0rld Series here Thursday night.

Gov. Robert Bentley throws out the ceremonial first pitch to open the Babe Ruth W0rld Series here Thursday night.

Bentley: Selling community is your job

Gov. Robert Bentley told city and industry leaders, as well as and Andalusia Chamber of Commerce members Thursday that to attract new business, Covington County must market and sell itself.

The answer was given after a question posed by the Covington County Economic Development Commission’s Rick Clifton, who asked what the area could do to attract new business.

“The first thing you can do is ‘sell your community,’ ” Bentley said. “To get industry to the area, you have to convince them that this is a wonderful place.

“There’s a lot going for Andalusia,” he said. “You have to get out and work. Take some trips. Recruitment is a people business. Sometimes you have to go to Paris, not for the sake of ‘going to Paris,’ but to tell people what you’re all about.

“Lastly, you have to make that company feel like you want them in your community,” he said. “And you’re doing a good job of doing just that.

“On a state level, we don’t pick where these industries go,” he said. “That’s why those relationships are so important.”

During the meeting, Bentley fielded questions about incentives for existing businesses from Carey Baker from Shaw Industries; incentives for natural gas pumping stations and vehicle retrofitting from Greg Henderson of Southeast Alabama Gas District; and the collection of sales tax from Internet sales by Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.

Johnson also expressed his thanks for the $8.6 million in ATRIP funding that will be used to rehabilitate South Three Notch Street. In total, the county received more than $14 million in ATRIP funding for various projects.

Bentley spent the majority of the day in Andalusia touring. He began with a lunchtime visit to David’s Catfish, followed by a visit the Andalusia campus of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. While there, he focused on the school’s workforce development programs.

His day continued with a visit to Henderson Sewing Machines – the site of one of eight companies that received a 2012 Governor’s Trade Excellence Award for success in exporting goods.

“Just to see what you have here in this area, to me, is very interesting,” the governor said. “It’s been a good day.

“Usually there are two things that people ask me about – a four-lane highway; well, you’ve already got the Seth Hammett four-lane highway, and then over in Elba, it’s the Jimmy Holley four-lane,” Bentley said. It was a comment met with laughter from the audience, which included both Hammett, the former state representative and Speaker of the House, and Holley, the area’s current senator.

“Everywhere I go, we talk about jobs,” Bentley said. “And we did that. I think my favorite thing (Thursday) is meeting the people, talking to them, asking them about their jobs. Because I feel that a governor should be out, meeting the people.”

Before leaving Andalusia, the governor threw out the first pitch at the Babe Ruth World Series Tournament. When asked about his pitching skills before the game, Bentley said, “I just hope I don’t throw like a girl.”