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Atmore businesses, industries plagued with economic woes

By Staff
Increased fears over money have been plaguing business owners and residents of Atmore for several weeks.
In fact, area businesses have been feeling the impact of an overall declining economy for several years; add to that the current financial woes, and many Atmore business owners are voicing fears and concerns over losses because of the state of the economy.
David Landa, president of Alto Products, said the main thing affecting his business is the price of gas.
Landa said the economic lag is affecting them because of fewer consumers.
Swift said along with hits to the lumber industry, gas has affected them too because of fuel needed to run production.
Dale Ash, vice president of Pepsi Bottling Co. Atmore, said gas is also what is hurting their business.
Pepsi, like many other area businesses, is doing what they can to counteract loss profits.
To help with costs, Pepsi switched from vans to Ford Focuses for sales and bought smaller delivery vans.
Ash said Pepsi is not having to cut payroll and instead of laying off employees are cutting costs when someone leaves by not filling their position. She added they are one of few companies who are still able to match dollar to dollar up to 4 percent on 401(k) plans.
Ash also said while not cutting payroll they are not adding to it either.
To combat losses Swift said they have looked at their product mix and are looking out for new product opportunities.
“We do a lot of exports and are constantly feeling around the world to find new opportunities for our products,” he said. “We’re managing everything we can think of and are watching the bottom line.”
Swift said his company has also had to make employment cuts to help with losses.
Landa, of Alto Products, said his business is also paying attention the their product mix. “We’ve been somewhat insulated because 60 percent of our business is foreign export,” he said. “The rest of the world, places like the Middle East, China and Russia are booming.”
He said even these countries are beginning to feel the effects of the U.S. economy slump and financial woes.
Bob Jones spoke of Atmore being an island in the sea of financial and economic woes.
Director of the Escambia County Industrial Board Marshall Rogers mirrors this thought saying, “Obviously there has been an economic downturn nationwide. We’re fortunate in that our area is less affected. We are optimistic about future growth of Atmore and county as a whole.”
Jones said what is most important for residents and business owners is to stay informed and not give in to fears.
Jones said residents here should be confident in the institutions and recent FDIC actions.
Dale Hurst, executive vice president and chief operating officer at First National Bank and Trust, said things are still the same at their bank and they plan on them staying that way.
Like FNB&T, stability is something United Bank is priding itself on.
“We’re not immune, but we’ve got plans, and we’re executing them,” Jones said. “We don’t have an liquidity problem. We can make loans. We positioned ourselves for this.”
Swift and Jones both said they supported U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner’s (R-ALA.) decision to vote for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
Jones also acknowledged the difficulty of Bonner making such a choice.
Congressman Bonner voted yes during Friday’s voting session for passage of the economic rescue bill.
Bonner said he tries to do the best he can for the citizens who elect him and added that while doing that job is difficult doing nothing is even worse.
Swift and Jones also spoke of the free-market system and the negative effects that can accompany it.
Still, with all of the negative that has resulted from the so-called crisis, Jones sees a brighter future.
“As painful as this is, we’ll all be better off from it. It reinforces our core values and principles,” he said.
Jones said it is important for consumers to learn from this and go back to those values and principles and understand the difference between wants and needs.