Bonner plans to discuss situation with Riley, cabinet next week
By By Paul Keane
Newly elected First District U.S. Congressman Jo Bonner was well aware of the Atmore Kmart closing by Tuesday afternoon, and he vowed to lend a hand where he could to help the area rebound from the blow.
"Mayor (Howard) Shell called me this morning to tell me about the closing," Bonner said. "I just want to say that you have some local leaders in Atmore and Escambia County that are good leaders and have done a good job. They've just taken a number of hits below the belt over the last few years.
"But I'm impressed with the fact that these leaders have not laid down and just said, 'Oh well, here's some more bad news.' Instead, they are being very proactive and aggressive in helping make things better economically for the area."
While admitting that the loss of jobs and sales tax revenue is a blow to Atmore, Bonner added that he and his office will be involved in helping ease the burden.
"I've pledged to Mayor Shell every effort possible on the part of my office to help out," he said. "Right now, I have a phone call into Kmart. I'm not hopeful that a call from a Congressman will change Kmart's mind, but I do want officials there to know what this is doing to the area.
"And I want to work aggressively with the cabinets in Montgomery and Washington to let them know that Southwest Alabama has been hit with some tough economic times over the last few years. Having lived in the area, I never saw the good economic times that were talked about during President Clinton's administration. Times have been tough in Southwest Alabama, and we want to let government officials know that."
Bonner said he will be attending Monday's inauguration ceremonies for Governor-elect Bob Riley, and that he will be also be voting on measures to help both unemployment and economic development in the area.
"Whether it's voting on economic stimulus package or extending unemployment benefits, I am going to do what I can to help people in Southwest Alabama," Bonner said. "I am a big believer in creating jobs and not really giving a handout. But, in times like this, you have to extend those benefits to people that are honestly trying to find work but have been hurt by the economic times.
"And I plan on meeting with people while I'm in Montgomery next week for the inauguration. We've got to make sure we let Governor Riley and his staff know that Southwest Alabama needs help, and they need it quickly."