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Shows looks to build clout in Montgomery

Demopolis is not on a level playing field when it comes to industrial development, said Jay Shows, the new president of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and executive secretary of the Industrial Development Board.

“You can have the best IDB board in the world…but until we start making some contacts in Montgomery – that have some clout – (Demopolis will be in second place).”

Shows spoke Wednesday to the regular meeting of the Demopolis Rotary Club. “We’re going to do our best; nobody will out hustle us,” he said. “But, you folks know how the world turns. We are not on a level playing field.”

One Hyundai supplier chose Luverne over Demopolis. “You’ve got to want to go to Luverne. There are no major interstates going to Luverne. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that if you spend much time there – you’ll say the quality of life issues are stronger in Demopolis than they are in Luverne.” However, they had a state senator (now on the governor’s staff) who helped move the supplier in Luverne’s direction.

The Demopolis IDB wants a better presence in the state capital. Shows plans to make regular trips to Montgomery beginning in February.

Demopolis has an industrial site at the airport, and a southern industrial park, which features a spec building. “We have no hot prospects,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of lookers.”

In fact, a recent industrial prospect did “a fly-over” of Demopolis. Shows did not know who the company was. “We just know that they came and looked at our area, and we made the first cut….That’s a lead that is still out there.”

Concerning riverfront development, Mark Pettus has proposed a river walk. The placement of that river walk in the historic Arch Street area “is a sensitive matter,” Shows said, but Pettus is talking with the area residents about the project.

Shows promised to “not drop the ball on things that are going very well” such as the Leadership Marengo program.

A new committee has been established to help individuals who want to put on fishing tournaments. In addition, a new horse interest committee has been established.

There is a tremendous interest in horse shows, he said. Shows had recently attended a horse show in Dixons Mills where 200 people attended.

Shows said the number of current chamber members was OK but was “not really growing.” The chamber currently has 240 to 250 members, he said. He doesn’t have data on retention rates.

The chamber has recruited businessmen who can help people who want to start small businesses. Shows would rather have someone for them to talk to instead of going and just obtaining information at the computer in the front room of the chamber office.

Upcoming chamber events include a chamber breakfast honoring school board members Jan. 26 at Bryan W. Whitfield Hospital; and the annual chamber banquet Feb. 2 in the Demopolis Civic Center.