Taylor to highlight annual meeting

Published 11:22pm Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bill Taylor believes in having a “product” to sell. As the head of Mercedes Benz US International for more than a decade, Taylor had plenty of it – the four-wheeled kind – but now retired from MBUSI and president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Taylor still has plenty of product to sell, just a different kind.

Taylor now spends his days traveling the state helping the private sector contribute to economic development. These days jobs are his product.

Since becoming head of EDPA, Taylor has focused the efforts of the nonprofit organization on assisting communities and regions in Alabama in their economic development efforts. He admits attracting new industry has been difficult given the recession, but says that shouldn’t deter communities from planning for future growth and investment while working to meet the needs of the existing industries they have.

“With the recession there are things that have slowed down across every business,” Taylor said. “That being said businesses have reset and reorganized themselves to survive and what we see out of that is consolidation and expansion – two pretty significant words more so than in the past. Companies see they can do more with the same. We see a real need to pay attention to our current businesses. The numbers will tell you around 70 percent of our [new] jobs come from existing businesses.”

Taylor also calls company expansions “now jobs,” meaning a community doesn’t necessarily have to wait on huge new facilities to be built.

“When a company expands, those jobs happen pretty quickly,” he said.

But when recruiting new industry, Taylor says a community has to be ready and have “product” to sell.

“Product means a site that is ready and a building that is ready,” he said. “Companies are much more on a fast track; they don’t have the time or the capital they used to so they’re looking for ready sites and ready buildings. Communities have a much larger percentage chance to attract a business or company if they have those.”

Earlier this month Taylor was selected by Gov.-elect Robert Bentley to lead an effort to align the state’s economic development and job creation efforts. He will share his views on his new role at the Centre for Commerce’s annual meeting Tuesday at the Selma Convention Center. Part of that vision, Taylor says, is helping regions of the state work together to develop and attract new industry.

“Regionalism is not a bad thing it’s a good thing,” Taylor said. “Pooling your resources [money and people] is a good thing. What we sometimes don’t understand is the movement of people and the significance of a factory being located 20 to 30 miles away from your county (where tier one suppliers locate). People move around 65 miles one way to work. This is a broader picture and larger picture of what happens in a circle around your community. There is information that has to be translated into economic development (and) the more we understand something happening in that radius is going to have a positive influence.”

The Centre for Commerce annual meeting begins at 7 p.m. and organizers report the event is sold out, with 200 confirmed attendees.

Editor's Picks