Columbus leaders roll out red carpet for governor’s day-long visit

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Tuesday was a day for Columbus business, civic and political leaders to showcase the city for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. 

The most public part of the governor’s visit was a lunchtime speech to the Rotary Club of Columbus.

It’s part of a plan for the Republican to get out of Atlanta and take his message to the people.

“We have been on the road a lot, letting people know we are serious about economic development all over our state,” Kemp said. “We have done a lot to focus on rural Georgia, which I know is a big interest around here, especially with the counties around Columbus, but also just the great things going on in the Columbus area.”

Kemp touched a lot of Columbus in a short time Tuesday.

“You got the base, you got great financial technology companies,” he said. “We were talking about robotics this morning at an earlier briefing. And I just believe there is a great opportunity here and it’s important for the governor to come.” 

Kemp spoke to a full house at the downtown Rotary Club where he talked about his initiatives. One of those is rural medicine. The new Mercer medical school that will open here in 2021 is a part of that. 

The governor joked that his arm still hurt from Rep. Richard Smith twisting it during the recent legislative session. The state gave Mercer more than $9 million to make the medical school possible.

Kemp cut a ribbon at Global Callcenter Solutions, a cable television call center that recently opened in an old Winn-Dixie on Buena Vista Road. 

Global Callcenter Solutions CEO Kurt Heitmann welcomed the governor and said it was a good visit.

“It was good to see him here,” Heitmann said. “I think it was a good opportunity for him to meet some of our employees and see how some of the incentives and stuff that were awarded have been able to help us transform an old facility I think something that is quite positive.” 

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson and Rep. Richard Smith both said this day was about building relationships with the new governor.

“… Now you have to remember that all this stuff that happens is built on relationship,” Smith said. “And the community has to develop a relationship with the governor and the governor with the community. So, it’s not just a one-sided affair.” 

Hopefully, the governor walked away with a better understanding of Columbus, Smith said.

“The only way the governor is going to have a good appreciate for Columbus is if he’s here,” Smith said. “He’s got to understand Fort Benning, the National Infantry Museum, economic development. All of the things that impact the community, whether it’s Columbus State University … you got to understand that. And the only way you will know it is to be here and experience it.”

And that’s how Columbus fits into a statewide puzzle, Henderson said.

“He is worried about the entire state of Georgia,” Henderson said. “He understands what’s good for Columbus is good for some of the counties that surround us, which are some of the poorer counties in the nation. And it makes us understand we can play a part in what his vision is for the entire state.” 

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