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Gubernatorial candidate Johnson visits Clanton

Bill Johnson, a Republican running for governor, visited Clanton on Monday to talk about the economy, education and his campaign.

Johnson stopped by The Clanton Advertiser to share his views on several key topics.

As past director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Johnson said he is uniquely qualified to work with existing industries and recruit new business to the state.

Johnson proposes establishing an “Alabama To Go” team to help existing industries expand their business to new customers.

While recruiting new industries is great and something to work toward, Johnson said a business that celebrates a ribbon cutting today might not bring jobs to the state for years. The Republican said having current businesses rev up their production and grow their exports is the key to quick job creation.

“It’s a pretty simple concept…let’s take our existing industries and turn those up 10-15 percent,” said Johnson.

For an example, Johnson said most businesses today have a Web site. But how much more business could they find if “Alabama To Go” helped these same businesses translate their site into different languages, Johnson said.

On education, Johnson talked about his support for Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students State-wide (ACCESS) Distance Learning. He said the program is a great equalizer for students in rural areas.

“You can basically have a teacher in Huntsville teach a student in Clanton…it doesn’t matter where the student is,” he said.

On a related note, Johnson also spoke about Gov. Bob Riley’s Alabama Broadband Initiative, an effort that Johnson’s wife, Kathy Johnson, directs.

“High speed Internet is the superhighway of the future,” Johnson said. “If you have high speed Internet, you are more likely to recruit industry.”

Johnson also addressed Alabama’s high school dropout rate. He said the key to bringing that number down is to acknowledge that not every student will attend a college and university, and that’s OK. Instead, students should be offered strong career/tech programs and told about opportunities in the Armed Forces.

“(Students) need to see the relevance of staying in school,” Johnson said.

Johnson said while he personally opposes gambling, he supports putting the issue to the vote of the people. If gambling or bingo does pass a referendum, he said the industry would need to be taxed, overseen by a strong gaming commission and fair so that “everyone plays by the same rules.”