Chamber president talks about visit with President Bush

The Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce was very happy and fortunate to host President Bush today.  We are extremely grateful that he responded to our request to visit “Main Street”.  He could have chosen any other community, but he chose to come to Alexandria.  I want to give a special thanks to Congressman Rodney Alexander for helping to facilitate this visit.
President Bush came to Alexandria to meet with community business leaders in an economic roundtable discussion forum.  I would have loved for all our members and political leaders to hear what he had to say.  Please understand that neither the Chamber nor I were able to make recommendations on who should attend.  The White House chose who they wanted in attendance from our membership list, which we provided at their request in no prioritized order.
The White House chose nine of the twelve panel members from our directory.  They included:  Grace Allen, Procter & Gamble; Blake Chatelain, Red River Bank; Lance Harris, Lance Harris Company; Martin Johnson, Regions Bank; Mike Madison, CLECO; Jonathan Martin, Roy O. Martin Companies; Kate Ribar, Renegade Harley-Davidson; Kenny Sayes, Sayes Office Supply; and Mark Vassar, Integrated Packaging Corporation.  The final three in attendance were Bob Taylor & Jerome Vascocu of the Louisiana Bankers Association and myself.  There was absolutely no one else in the room besides five of the President’s closest staffers from the White House and Congressman Alexander.
The President wanted discussions to be centered around the economy.  He was simply on a “fact finding” mission and engaged in conversation with all the panelists as he personally took notes.  White House staffers commented that these discussions usually last about 25-30 minutes.  However, President Bush spent nearly 90-minutes with our business panelists in very frank discussions about “Main Street” and the Impact Recovery Program.
I appreciate the cooperation of all businesses in and around the area of 3rd and 4th Streets that were inconvenienced by this visit.  The cities of Alexandria and Pineville were tremendous in supporting every request The White House Staff and Secret Service made.  The White House Staff and Secret Service were extremely complimentary of the support they received while here.  They deemed this their most enthusiastic and thoroughly supported by our staff, law enforcement and the community.
Again, this visit was both short-fuzed and the most tightly controlled of any in my memory.  My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the President of our great nation, his surperb White House staff and our local community for allowing Central Louisiana to have a voice in this excellent “Main Street” opportunity to impact National Economic Policy.
Elton Pody

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