There, above the fold and at the top on page one of the Sept. 25 edition of The Telegraph, in big letters were the words: “Textile Supplier, 140 jobs headed to Perry.”
Sandler AG’s decision to locate in Perry and Houston County, when they could have expanded to any place in America, came as the result of smart, hard work and a good product extolled by many, including Houston County’s commissioners and Development Authority, and the Houston County Board of Education, together with the cities of Perry, Warner Robins and Centerville, plus the state’s Department of Economic Development and Gov. Nathan Deal.
Not since Frito-Lay decided to locate here in 1987 with its snack food plant (now the largest in the world under one roof and employing approximately 1,200 people) have I been this excited about a new industry. My hope is that “Team Houston” will build on Sandler AG’s coming to bring other job opportunities to our area. It should be done. It can be done. I believe it will be done.
Part of the inspiration for this column was a couple of articles in Garden & Gun magazine, about a week ago, two days after the Sandler AG announcement. The first article was “Mr. Mayor: The Exit Interview” which is about Mayor Joe Riley’s four decades of leadership of Charleston, South Carolina and his plan to step down in January 2016.
Mayor Riley, now 72, was elected at age 32, and has served continuously since. He has overseen the revitalization and transformation of Charleston and has guided that city through catastrophe — Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the Sofa Super Store fire in 2007 that claimed the lives of nine firefighters and most recently, the killings at the Emanuel AME Church on June 17. He has had an amazing and effective long run as Charleston’s mayor.
The story on Mayor Riley should be required reading for all local government officials. I strongly commend it to all of you, and if anyone wants a copy of it, send me your email address and I will send it to you.
The article on Mayor Riley was followed by another article in this same edition of Garden & Gun titled “Authentic Atlanta” with the subtitle “The Georgia Capital is shaking off a reputation for mass–market sameness and finally embracing its quirks.”
The Atlanta article is also one that should be read by our local government officials — elected and appointed. There are good lessons in both articles, and in the experiences of those working to get the Sandler AG folks to join us, as to what makes people want to live, work, play and start a business in a particular place when they have the whole country, and in some instances, the whole world, from which to choose.
All of this brings me to the city of Perry. There’s lots of positive stuff going on in Perry. New lights on Courtney Hodges. Every store in downtown Perry is occupied. Brick sidewalks. Green space. Parks. Music festivals. Bold new charm.
Yes, there is some grumbling. Taxes are too high. Why do we need brick sidewalks? Leave it like it is. We have enough parks. True, Perry is not going to be a Charleston or an Atlanta. But it can be a Thomasville or a Madison. It can be and is becoming a destination town. And it can be a place where new industry wants to locate. And where our young folks want to come back to when they are through with school.
As to Perry’s becoming a “destination city,” don’t forget that it will have approximately 450,000 people in its environs over 11 days beginning Thursday, Oct. 8. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent to five Georgia-Alabama football games in Sanford Stadium over 11 days. And the city, along with the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, with its excellent staff, and with the help of Houston County and the state of Georgia, has and will handle the crowds with great professionalism.
Go for it Houston County and Perry. “Strike while the iron is hot!” You can do it. We’ve got the proof and we’ve got the product.
Welcome, Sandler AG. We are glad to have you.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.