Bentley visits Anniston's Entrepreneurial Center
by Eddie Burkhalter
Aug 06, 2013 | 4272 views |  0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks with diners at Classic On Noble during a visit to Anniston on Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks with diners at Classic On Noble during a visit to Anniston on Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley stopped by the office of WideNet Consulting at the Entrepreneurial Center in Anniston on Tuesday, and the owner had some advice for him about the state’s Alabama JobLink website.

Chris Williams’ company builds websites and manages social media for businesses.

Williams told Bentley he hadn’t known the website – which matches job seekers to openings throughout the state – existed.

“And I’m a Web guy,” Williams said. “I’ve been in business for nine years. So I said ‘We need to fix that. We need to promote it using free tools like Facebook and Twitter’.”

If William’s comments were amusing it’s because the reason for Bentley’s visit was to talk about putting people back to work in a still-sluggish economy.

The visit Tuesday was part of Bentley’s “Road to Economic Recovery Tour,” which takes him to communities throughout the state to talk with business owners and local leaders about jobs and the economy.

Bentley also met Tuesday with William Burt, owner of a company called Base Camp Trailers, also located at the center, that makes multi-use camping and tailgating trailers. Burt used to make boats, but they can be an expensive luxury, he explained.

“We got into a man-toy business about the time every man lost about half their value in the stock market,” Burt said.

Burt built the first trailer and word spread. He has a salesman in Texas now and his off-road version is doing well with the hunting crowd there, he said.

“He liked the trailer,” Williams said, speaking of Bentley’s stop in his shop, where he continues to finish several rugged-looking utility trailers.

Burt’s is one of 12 companies housed at the center, where startups and existing business rent space and receive mentoring to help grow their companies. The center is managed by the Calhoun County Economic Development Council.

Speaking briefly with reporters before lunch at Classic on Noble Tuesday, Bentley pointed to business incubators like the center as one solution to growing the state’s economy.

“We believe in entrepreneurship and innovation. How an idea can become a company, and that’s what they’re doing there,” Bentley said. “Those companies will begin to hire people, and that’s what grows new industries in this state.”

When asked about Williams’ suggestions to better market the state’s jobs website, Bentley said, “What I do is listen, and he gave me some good ideas.”

Asked about his decision to not include Alabama in an expansion of Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, Bentley said he has his reasons.

“We’re trying to do everything that we can to get changes and a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Bentley said. “I think it’s happening on its own, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have stood strong as governors.”

Bentley is one of 14 governors who have declined to expand their states’ Medicaid programs.

Instead of expanding the program, Bentley said the state is changing the structure of Medicaid from a fee-for-service payment model – in which health care providers are paid for each procedure and office visit – to an outcome-based model in which five regional care organizations across the state will manage patient care.

“My goal in Medicaid is not to expand Medicaid. My goal is to create more jobs in the state so we have less people on Medicaid,” Bentley said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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