Opp mayor: ‘We started talks with China’

Published 12:15 am Saturday, March 29, 2014

Opp Mayor John Bartholomew was one of many city leaders from several states who traveled to Dothan this week for a manufacturing symposium with hundreds Chinese business officials. Bartholomew said the three-day event gave city leaders in the U.S. a way to open lines of communication with Chinese companies possibly interested in building on American soil.


“We were there to look at anyone interested in food processing, manufacturing or technical industry,” Bartholomew said. “We went over with a wide range of interests.”

Bartholomew said officials from South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and other states were present for the symposium, all with the goal of bringing businesses to their respective towns.

“You meet with different companies, and you get a taste of what they are interested in,” Bartholomew said. “They like small towns, and they are looking at what city is going to give them the best in order to bring them over.”

Bartholomew said the natural progression of any possible business deal usually involves a trip to China to meet with companies and provide them with reasons why an American location would be beneficial. While Bartholomew said city of Opp is not currently in talks of that magnitude, the symposium helped lay the groundwork for future possibilities.

“This was really just a surface meeting,” he said. “There were plenty of businesses there representing China, and this was about forming relationships.”

Should one of those relationships evolve into a possible business deal, Bartholomew said Opp is ready.

“We have an industrial park ready to go,” he said. “We have a work force that’s beyond any other work force. We have 40,000-square-foot spec building. We are aggressive about bringing people in. We have integrity and accountability, and I’m proud of that.”

But Bartholomew said it also important to find industry that citizens will be proud to welcome into Opp.

“We’re not Birmingham,” he said. “In our small town, what we have to offer is our people. It has to be a good fit. When you come to this town, people are going to know you and thank you in the grocery store for hiring their people. You’re really marrying our city. You’re becoming part of it.”

Bartholomew said sending that message to Chinese officials was the most important aspect of the symposium.

“What you’ve done is laid the ground work,” he said. “We let China know that we are interested.”