Economic leader touts

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 5, 1999

education, regionalism


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Dec. 4, 1999 10 PM

According to Dr. David Broenner, regionalism and a strong public school system are the keys to a strong economic base.

"When I am recruiting a new industry, give me a strong public school system and I can sell them anything," Broenner said Thursday night at the Pike County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

Broenner was the featured speaker at the ceremony, where he, living up to his reputation, spoke his mind to the crowd.

Broenner, the director of Alabama Retirement Systems, has been successful in growing the organization into an economic powerhouse after taking over it when it was in shambles.

"The best advice I can give you when it comes to getting new business to locate here is regionalism, regionalism, regionalism," he said. "You try to go at it alone and you are going to fail."

Broenner says the success of other areas in the state in recruiting business has been a willingness for towns, counties and regions to work together to promote the interests of the region.

Using the example of Auburn and Opelike, Broenner said that two communities working together can do much more than one community tackling a project on its own.

"Auburn and Opelike are the damndest thing in economic development I have ever seen," he said. "They were mean toward one another and were always working against each other. Once we got them together, we saw two mean pack animals running together to get things done."

Broenner said the communities in the Wiregrass must work together to promote the area and economic development.

"Build a corridor to Dothan," he said. "I’d take the Wiregrass and turn it into a regional firepower in economic development."

But, he said, one of the key tools to do that will be building a strong public school system.

"Private schools are useless in recruiting industry," he said.

Broenner also touched on the importance of Alabama increasing taxes to put its level of funding at the Southeastern average.

"Education in Alabama is funded at 75 percent of the Southeastern average," he said. "And that region has the lowest average in the country. Alabamians pay less in taxes than anybody in America. We’re 50th behind Mississippi. You know something’s wrong when you pay less than Mississippi."

Broenner also discussed the investments of the Teacher Retirement Fund in purchasing media groups throughout the country. He said the investments have given Alabama a positive image through advertising in newspapers and on television stations that were purchased through the Alabama Teacher Retirement Fund.

He said the success of the investments is evident through the increase in tourist dollars from $2.6 billion six years ago to $5.4 billion this year.

Broenner’s speech capped the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet, which saw the president’s gavel pass from the hands of Ronnie Moseley to John Schmidt.

Award winners were also announced at the meeting with the following individuals winning awards: Alan Boothe, State Government Award; the late Ralph Railey, Senior Citizen Award; the Brundidge Peanut Butter Festival Committee, the Special Events Award; Whaley Construction, the Small Business Award; the late Red Williams, Volunteer of the Year; and Claudia Crosby, Pike County Role Model.

The event was held at the Troy Country Club in front of a packed house.