FLORENCE — Gov. Robert Bentley planned to put on his tuxedo and attend the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday night.
But before doing that, Bentley put on his small business hat Friday afternoon at the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.
“Small businesses really are the backbone of America,” Bentley said. “We want to help you. We’ve set up a small business advisory council to bring organization, and so we won’t operate in silos.”
Bentley spoke to a small business roundtable of about 75 people and covered a wide range of topics, taking questions from the audience.
“It’s important to help small businesses,” Bentley said. “Most jobs are created by small businesses.”
Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Steve Holt said of the chamber’s 1,000 members, 90 percent employ 50 people or less.
Bentley talked about landing the Remington plant in Huntsville, which is expected to bring about 2,000 jobs.
“But I’m just as proud of a company that’s just getting started and adds one job,” he said. “We started the small business advisory council as a one-stop shop where we could help small businesses.”
Bentley said Alabama’s unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was the lowest in the South.
He also turned his attention to health care costs and how they are hurting small business owners.
“It’s a bad situation for America,” Bentley said of the Affordable Health Care Act. “Small businesses won’t be able to provide health care or insurance to their employees. It’s going to cost jobs.
“The Affordable Care Act puts into play things that Blue Cross has to cut because of rising costs. This year, it costs $52 million more to insure Americans. Next year, it will cost $160 million more. It’s going to have to change. We are putting small businesses in a bind. The answer is to go back to the drawing board and start over.”
Bentley’s visit was part of his Road to Economic Recovery Tour where he visits communities and discusses local economic conditions and state-level efforts to attract more jobs to Alabama. After leaving the chamber, he was scheduled to visit B Electric Inc. in Florence.
Holt said it was important for the governor to visit the chamber and show his support for small business.
“We are happy to have him here and happy for his interest in small business,” Holt said. “It’s not often you get the governor to take part in a session such as this. We had some good questions, too.”
Bentley was asked about the plans to build a new hospital in Florence by RegionalCare Hospital Partners.
“I know it takes a number of months for it to go through the courts, but I say if someone has $300 million and wants to build a new hospital, go to it,” Bentley said. “I know it’s about competition. But I believe if people have the money and want to build a hospital, that they ought to be able to build it.”
Bentley said the government’s job should be to make things simpler, not more complicated.
“I’ve said the closest thing to eternity on this earth is a government program,” Bentley said. “We want to make things simpler, not to impede progress.”
He said his goal since taking office has been to save money for Alabama taxpayers.
“Our IT department is putting in a single system that the entire state of Alabama will be on,” Bentley said. “It will save $650 million. Those are the kinds of things we want to put in place. We want to get government out of the 1980s because that’s where we are now.”
Bentley applauded the efforts to reopen the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and said he was looking forward to the induction banquet.
“Keeping the Music Hall of Fame here is important,” Bentley said. “We have a good board, and it really should stay in this area. I’m glad some money was put into it. It started here, and it should stay here.”
Updated: 12:13 am, Sat Mar 1, 2014.|