Governor pays visit to Red Bay as part of state economic tour
RED BAY – A large crowd packed into 4th Street Grill and Steakhouse in Red Bay on Thursday for a chance to speak with Gov. Robert Bentley about some of the changes they hope to see looming on the horizon for Franklin County.
Bentley, who is the first sitting governor in more than 20 years to visit Red Bay, was in the area as part of his Road to Economic Recovery Tour.
After lunch with community members, Bentley and his staff also took a tour of Tiffin Motorhomes, discussed several concerns with Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe and other city officials at City Hall, and wrapped up the day with members of the business sector at Community Spirit Bank.
Bentley said he began the tour as a way to reach out to all the counties in the state and speak with local residents and business leaders about economic concerns and ways to attract more jobs.
Bentley said Red Bay was a perfect stop for the tour because of the abundance of economic development in the area.
“Red Bay is a very unique city because I don’t know of another city of this size in the state of Alabama with this much major industry,” Bentley said.
“I am very impressed with what I have seen and by the leadership here.”
But city leaders told Bentley that don’t plan to stop with just the industry they currently have.
Forsythe discussed the West Franklin Regional Industrial Park, which is a 55-acre park located in Red Bay.
“We are ready and willing to support any new industry that wants to locate in the area,” Forsythe said.
“We want to provide as much opportunity for our residents as we possibly can. We have many bright young people in the area, and we want to keep them here at home when it’s time for them to find jobs instead of them having to travel over into Mississippi to find work.”
Forsythe also discussed several concerns with the ongoing roadwork on Alabama 24, also known as Corridor V, and the traffic safety issues that have come up with the opening of the new section of Corridor V that bypasses Red Bay.
Forsythe showed Bentley pictures of four different intersections where city or county roads meet up with Alabama 24 but there are no lights to highlight those intersections at night.
“We really need to get some exterior lights up in these places so people can actually see there is an intersection there,” Forsythe said.
“At night it’s almost impossible to see what to do and my concern is a resident pulling out in front of a car barreling down through there, especially when the speed limit is raised to 65 mph.”
Councilman Brad Bolton said he’s also concerned about what the lack of lighting will do to the city in terms of economic recovery.
“Red Bay is the gateway back into Alabama from Mississippi and now that Corridor V bypasses the city instead of running through it, we want to be lit up to let people know there’s a city here where they can stop and get food or gas or shop,” Bolton said.
“We don’t want to lose out on business because people don’t realize we’re here.”
Bentley listened to the concerns and said he would do his best to look into the issues.
He said he was particularly interested in the road construction since his plane was diverted to Russellville Municipal Airport and he actually had to travel the new section of Alabama 24 to get to Red Bay.
“It was good that I was redirected to Russellville and was given a chance to see the progress being made on Highway 24 and some of the things that can be made better,” Bentley said.
“I called to check on the progress of the roadwork and was told that the entire project will be completed in 2-2½ years.
“This is a vital project because when we connect Red Bay to Russellville with this new road, it will help with economic development in the area as well.”
Forsythe said he appreciated Bentley taking the time to meet with residents and city officials to discuss some of these concerns.
“We are very proud of our town and the businesses and hard-working people we have here,” Forsythe said.
“We are thankful that Gov. Bentley allowed us to show him our town and we know that he will help us continue to make progress.”