Governor Brian Kemp’s visit to Southeast Georgia last Wednesday included a stop at CPE America in Metter.
Kemp and Georgia’s First Lady Marty Kemp were welcomed to the concrete pumping facility by CPE America owner Sebastian Falzon, who greeted the couple via internet conferencing while displaying “Everything’s Better in Metter” memorabilia.
“Marty and I are very proud to be here,” Governor Kemp told Falzon and local attendees. “This is a great community and a great part of our state.”
As a construction worker himself, Kemp said, “This is the kind of industry we like in Georgia.”
And with so many states promoting stricter sheltering policies during the COVID-19 crisis, Kemp said, “We are a state a lot of people are looking at right now.”
Falzon pointed out that the room in which the group gathered to meet has seen people from all over the country.
“We show them Metter, take them to Savannah,” Falzon said, adding that CPE America is partnering with Ogeechee Technical College to provide a certified training program for concrete pump operators. “That all takes place in the room where you are sitting right now,” he said.
CPE Plant Manager Kevin Miccichi then led the First Couple on a tour of the facility and even gave them each an opportunity to remotely operate the equipment.
A roundtable session followed the tour. Kemp said he has been focused on finding ways to stimulate the economy during this COVID era. He is also pushing his “Four for Fall” campaign.
Four Things for Fall
Saying that he is watching cases drop in key areas around the state, Kemp continues to ask Georgians to do four things: Wear masks, practice social distancing, wash your hands and follow CDC guidelines.
Candler County Industrial Authority Executive Director Hannah Mullins spoke of how the corona virus has impacted the local community saying, “We have done pretty well. The community has rallied overall. I am proud of the fact that we have come out as good as we have.”
Mullins mentioned the new businesses that have opened locally in the past several months and said that CPE has had phenomenal growth in sales.
Miccichi added that CPE’s sales are continuing to grow. “Once they buy our pumps, we have them (as customers) because our quality is second to none.”
Industries the size of CPE America are what the state needs, Kemp said. “We need to diversify and not rely on just one big industry.”
County Commission Chairman Glyn Thrift asked the Governor if the state’s COVID reporting could include a ‘recovered’ column as a way to see morale improve in the community.
The numbers, Kemp said, “are a moving target.” Some media outlets, he added, are reporting the worst numbers they can find. However, he said, the hospitalization rate has dropped with about 800 hospital beds open statewide.
“All the numbers are moving our way,” he said. To assist in the COVID fight, Kemp said, “We have sent 1700 temporary medical staff out across the state. The state is spending a lot of money to support our hospital network.”
Superintendent Dr. Bubba Longgrear thanked the Governor for his support in seeing schools open back up and for deeming teachers as essential workers. He also spoke of the county’s 93 percent graduation rate and said the local school system is focusing now on what the students are prepared to do after graduation.
“I’m with you on that,” Kemp replied. “Every community is different. There is so much testing that students can’t learn a skill. We have opportunities like this all over the state. We have to do a lot of different things. Our focus is on local control (of the schools) and meeting the needs of each community.”
Mayor Ed Boyd commented on the success of programs such as the Georgia Grown initiative and expressed appreciation for OneGeorgia grants and programs that benefit communities such as Metter.
State Representative Butch Parrish added that the Governor is “right on target about rural Georgia. There’s not one silver bullet; you have to add it all together,” he said, speaking of rural healthcare, the Georgia Grown Initiative and other rural issues.
As the roundtable concluded, Mullins said, “Look around and see everybody here together. We are one of the few counties that is virtually 100 percent broadband ready.” She then emphasized the community’s shovel-ready status and other accomplishments.
“We have everything going for us except that we’re small,” she said. “This county embodies everything about collaboration in a small town.”
Included with those joining Kemp at CPE America were State Senator-Elect Billy Hickman, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Victoria Gaitten, Metter Economic Development Director Heidi Jeffers and members of Candler County Industrial Authority.
Kemp also made stops in Baxley, Claxton and Vidalia on Wednesday.