On the morning of Jan. 18, Mayor David “Bubba” Hughes gave his State of the City Address, hosted by the City of Bridgeport.
Due to the winter weather, Guest Speaker Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill was forced to cancel his appearance at the breakfast.
Dennis Long with Mohawk Industries addressed the crowd and provided an update on the status of the company. In January of last year, a portion of the Bridgeport Beaulieu fiber plant was forced to close down, but several potential buyers stepped up to save the facility.
“We were very fortunate to have a lot of interest expressed by several different companies for the purchase of the company [Beaulieu]. Mohawk thankfully was the winning bidder,” said Long.
Long reported on the rapid success of the turnover, and shared the company’s plans for its continued growth.
“Since the time of the turnover, we had 184 employees, and we are up to today right at 360 employees. We look forward to continuing that growth and our long-term goal is to be back up the 500 [employees] level.”
Matt Taylor with USG spoke next, and addressed their current business status.
“It’s been a difficult road with the economy the way it has been for us, but we are facing some optimistic times. I am very pleased with what I see. We just recently added about 20 percent to our employment and we are launching some new products. The future looks really good for us, and we really appreciate the support we get from the city and the community,” said Taylor.
Due to the weather, some invited business representatives who were slated to speak were unable to attend the breakfast.
Hughes went on to briefly discuss Google, but admitted that he didn’t have a lot of new information to share. Rick Roden, CEO and President of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, provided an update.
“They are coming, we met with them earlier last year, and they assured us, even though it’s been a little bit slow, they are starting to have some things happen,” said Roden. “There is a lot of activity still going on out there.”
Roden said that despite the lack of news coming out of Google, they are viewing it as a very positive, long-term project.
“It’s [Google} is a game changer. They have already done two cycles of grants in Jackson County and every school around has benefitted, Bridgeport especially. Our school systems will never be the same because of Google. It’s coming, and I really believe we are going to see a lot of activity in 2018.”
Next, Roden discussed the ongoing Bellefonte project and the plans to continue to move towards the construction phase.
“If this happens, and it’s moving towards that, we are talking about 6,000-8,000 construction jobs for 6-8 years, and 2,000 permanent high-paying jobs,” said Roden.
“Google is a game changer by itself, but you add Bellefonte to the mix, and add to Mohawk, and USG and all the other industries that we have in this area that are growing, 2018 and beyond, Jackson County is going to see growth like we have never seen before.”
Roden concluded with, “As long as we are all working together, it is limitless what we can accomplish.”
Hughes spent some time discussing the various grants the city has received for roadwork, water line work, beautification and several other projects. He also touched on the boat dock renovations, and gave thanks for the anonymous donations that made the work possible.
Mention was made of some of the dilapidated buildings in the downtown Bridgeport area, and how the city is going to move towards enforcing owners to clean them up.
“We are going to make our town look good, whatever it takes,” said Hughes.
Hughes closed by extending his thanks to all the city and county workers, elected officials, community organizations and volunteer and charity groups for all of their hard work in the City of Bridgeport.