Cham­ber poses ’14 pri­or­i­ties

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

Only 10 of the 89 Bax­ter In­ter­na­tional fam­i­lies who have re­lo­cated to work at the new man­u­fac­tur­ing plant on the Newton/Wal­ton county bor­der have cho­sen to live in Cov­ing­ton, and new cham­ber board Chair­man Dan Mur­phy says that’s not good enough.

“We can do bet­ter,” Mur­phy said at the Cov­ing­ton-Newton County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s an­nual meet­ing Thurs­day night. As Bridge­stone’s se­nior di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing, Mur­phy knows a thing or two about sell­ing a prod­uct.

The cham­ber is launch­ing a re­search project to ask peo­ple what in­flu­enced their de­ci­sions about where to live. Mur­phy wants to know if fam­i­lies even con­sid­ered Cov­ing­ton and what they saw as the pros and cons. He said he hopes the cham­ber will have an ac­tion plan in place by the end of Fe­bru­ary.

Re­cruit­ing new res­i­dents will be one of three “sales jobs” that cham­ber staff and of­fi­cials will fo­cus on; the oth­ers are re­cruit­ing more in­dus­tries and more tourists.

Mur­phy chal­lenged the as­sem­bled crowd of com­mu­nity lead­ers from area small busi­nesses, in­dus­tries, gov­ern­ment and the school sys­tem to sell Newton County ev­ery chance they get by talk­ing about their love and pride for their home.

“If we get to­gether, we can make this place rock,” Mur­phy said.

Mur­phy said sell­ing com­pa­nies, ex­ec­u­tives and tourists on Newton County will be based on its peo­ple,

place and plan.

He said the res­i­dents are friendly and hard­work­ing, thoughts echoed by other speak­ers, in­clud­ing an out-oftown res­i­dent who made a point of talk­ing about how wel­com­ing the county’s res­i­dents are.

Cham­ber Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall said it’s the county’s peo­ple who set it apart.

“(You’re) peo­ple of char­ac­ter, peo­ple of val­ues, peo­ple whom you want to do busi­ness with,” Hall said.

On the prac­ti­cal side, Mur­phy said Newton County has a work­force of more than 48,000, some 22 per­cent of whom are al­ready work­ing in the type of man­u­fac­tur­ing the county wants to re­cruit.

Another sell­ing point for in­dus­tries is the fact there are 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple within a 45-min- ute drive of Cov­ing­ton to sup­ple­ment lo­cal work­ers.

As far as the place, Mur­phy pointed to the lo­cal higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions and the pres­ence of ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties close by in At­lanta and Athens.

He also said there are some im­pres­sive suc­cess sto­ries com­ing out of the Newton County School Sys­tem, which is send­ing stu­dents to pres­ti­gious schools such as Har­vard and Stan­ford uni­ver­si­ties.

Mur­phy called the Newton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy an “ab­so­lute gem” and said pro- spec­tive in­dus­try lead­ers need to be shown the school’s re­sources.

The 2050 Plan dif­fer­en­ti­ates Newton County from other sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ties and speaks vol­umes to prospec­tive in­dus­tries, Mur­phy said, be­cause com­pa­nies such as Bax­ter that build new plants are look­ing 20, 30 or 40 years into the fu­ture. Com­pa­nies want to know where the com­mu­nity around them is head­ing.

He said the cham­ber staff will be giv­ing 100 per­cent of its en­ergy to im­prov­ing the com­mu­nity in 2014, and he asked for the com­mu­nity’s help.

Mur­phy takes over the chair­man­ship from Paul Mur­phy, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources in C.R. Bard’s med­i­cal di­vi­sion.

The cham­ber’s board of di­rec­tors for 2014 will in­clude both Mur­phys, Hi­lary Edgar (lo­cal at­tor­ney and in­com­ing chair for 2015), Mark Ross (Right at Home), Jay Lan­ners (Lan­ner De­vel­op­ment), Tessa Nolan (Newton Fed­eral), Jeff Wag­ner (Wag­ner Ser­vices), Bill Loe­ble (re­tired from Beaver Man­u­fac­tur­ing) and Jim Weadick (Newton Med­i­cal Center).

Dar­rell Everidge/The Cov­ing­ton News

Mark Ross, owner of Right at Home, and Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall strike a Heis­man Tro­phy pose at the an­nual meet­ing Thurs­day night. For more pho­tos and award win­ners, see pages 4-5B.

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