Business council president embraces Riley’s tax plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Whenever William &uot;Billy&uot; Canary travels by car, he likes to stop and eat at truck stops. It’s a habit he developed back when he headed the American Trucking Association.

As drivers who had been quietly nursing a third or fourth cup of too-strong coffee moments before listened incredulously, Canary would introduce himself as head of the nation’s largest trucking association and earnestly inquire about their life on the road.

He wanted to know what problems the men and women who drove the trucks were encountering and what his organization could do to improve their lives.

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As president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, Canary now asks much the same questions of the 5,100 members of the state’s largest business organization.

Tuesday, Canary was in Selma to address area business leaders on a variety of topics, including the upcoming Sept. 9 statewide vote on Gov. Bob Riley’s tax and accountability package.

Henry chairs BCA’s District 2. The council was created when the Associated Industries of Alabama and the State Chamber of Commerce merged to form a stronger and more effective business group.

Canary concedes that the news on the business front has not always been good in recent months, with seemingly one accounting scandal after another grabbing national headlines.

But he insists those headlines don’t tell the whole story.

Canary cited Henry’s personal work ethic, his demonstrated concern for his workers and his record of community involvement as far more typical of most businesses in America.

Henry Brick was started in 1945 and employs some 90 people. Henry shared an anecdote that typified how many of his employees feel about the company his father started.

Recalled Henry, &uot;Someone asked me awhile back, ‘What’s your absentee rate?’ I told him, ‘I don’t know, it’s just not an issue for us.’&uot;

Canary said the council embraced Riley’s plan after much deliberation because it represents the best option in dealing with the state’s projected $600 million-plus deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

Canary pointed out that the council embraced Riley’s plan even though it calls for some $1.2 billion in new revenues.

Canary decried what he termed the widespread &uot;misinformation&uot; being circulated about the plan. He noted that under the governor’s proposal roughly two-thirds of Alabama residents would pay the same or less in taxes.

He also noted that the plan includes a number of measures intended to increase the state’s accountability for how it spends taxpayer money &045;&045; such as doing away with no-bid contracts.

He likened the choice facing voters in September to that of an Alabama or Auburn football team that scores a touchdown and is faced with the choice of kicking a point after to tie or going for two and winning.

Although he has only been on the job since March, Canary already has met with Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. and freshman U.S. Rep. Artur Davis about ways to boost economic development in the Black Belt.

One of the initiatives being studied is a renewed emphasis on growing existing businesses.