The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 15, 2014

State of the State has local touch

By Budd McLaughlin

— Boosting education and jobs in Tuesday night’s State of the State Address, Gov. Robert Bentley struck a chord locally.

The governor was speaking about the newly created Small Business Advisory Council and its mission to help small businesses and job creation.

“We must create greater opportunity for Alabamians to acquire the skills needed for higher-paying jobs,” he said. “Companies are looking and jobs are waiting for skilled workers.

“In Athens, TR Electrical is a small family-owned company I visited last year. Business is good, but to keep up with demand, they need more skilled electricians.”

Tim Bauer of TR Electrical wasn’t watching at the time but after getting a few phone calls, he turned it on.

Unfortunately, he was a little too late.

“I got a call from one of my customers who said the governor’s talking about us,” he said. “By the time I turned it on, he was already talking about something else.

“But I did get a transcript and we recorded it.”

Bauer said Bentley visited the company in August during a tour of the area.

“I think it was a random pick,” he said. “We talked about qualified electricians and the need for them. He said he was working on it and asked if I would get involved.”

The result is the Governor’s College and Career Ready Task Force.

“We brought together leaders in the fields of business, industry and education to develop ideas to help prepare students for a career,” Bentley said in Tuesday’s address. “The Task Force recently presented a number of recommendations that will result in a constant supply of high school and college graduates who have the skills industries and businesses such as TR Electrical want.”

And it didn’t take long for TR Electrical to get attention.

“We’ve had a few calls,” Bauer said. “I got a call this morning from the county vocational school. They want to get more involved; they have residential (electrician) programs and want to expand to commercial.”

In fact, Bauer said work’s picking up and his company needs a “couple journeymen — trained, experienced — electricians.”

“They’re hard to find.”

During Bentley’s visit, Bauer said they also talked about hunting — “my son’s a deer hunter and he said he goes, too” — and he grew to respect the governor.

“I think he’s a good person,” said Bauer, who was particularly taken by the governor’s pledge to not take a salary until the unemployment rate is 5.2 percent, roughly full employment. “I know he has money but he’s giving up about $100,000 — that’s commendable.

“I think he’s got the desire to serve in his heart.”

And now, with this endorsement from the governor, Bauer is grateful and focused.

“I was honored,” he said. “And we’re going to live up to it.”