City inks deal

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Chamber to head economic development

Brewton’s economic development push will now be led by a group of local business leaders.

The agreement between the Brewton Council and the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce was approved last week and allows an economic development board to coordinate efforts to bring new industry and retail opportunities to the city.

Mayor Yank Lovelace said the plan has been in the works for many months.

“I think this effort compliments the city’s efforts,” Lovelace said of the agreement.

The push will be led by a board of local business leaders and includes Mark Manning, a past chamber president and executive in the nursing home industry, who serves with Darryl Konsler, Grede’s general manager; Wendy Folmar, a local State Farm insurance agent, and Hal Whitman, a salesman at Peach Chevrolet. An additional board member will be added at a later date.

“This board has been established to help foster business development in Brewton,” Manning said. “It’s our goal to create and maintain quality jobs and increase the tax base for Brewton, while focusing on supporting existing local businesses, recruiting prospective businesses to Brewton and assisting incoming businesses in their transitions.”

He said the group also plans to promote the redevelopment of existing vacant and underutilized properties, encourage downtown renovation and promote the utilization of development-ready sites.

The council appropriated $5,000 a month to the chamber through September. A $111,100 proposed budget for 2017 was submitted and included costs for a website redesign; Google Adwords and email campaigns; a $30,000 appropriation to Coastal Gateway, the regional economic development group; $40,000 to pursue Advantage Site Certification (ACS) for the 41-acre parcel in the city’s industrial park; and another $10,000 in miscellaneous expenses. The website and ACS costs are one-time expenses.

“The Advantage Site Certification is crucial to Brewton’s success,” Konsler said. “As potential businesses search to relocate, they don’t have the time to wait a year for site prep and infrastructure to be installed.

“When a site is given the ‘Advantage Site Certification,’ it means that location is ready for business,” he said.

In Alabama, there are 53 sites, which would put Brewton in an “elite group,” Konsler said.

“Business people don’t know what Brewton has to offer,” he said. “We are the people who live here and work here, and we can show the business community that Brewton has a lot to offer. We just have to get the word out.”