Alabama Agency Execs Cry Foul Over State Biz Sent to Memphis

Although some Ala-bama agencies are still bristling over an ad account that their state development office awarded to an out-of-state shop, new legislation will be introduced next month that would mandate reviews for all Alabama ad contracts.
The Alabama Development Office (ADO) recently assigned a one-year, $700,000 contract to Walker & Associates in Mem-phis, Tenn. The agency, which has ties to Alabama Gov. Fob James, acquired the business without a review.
“It’s a slap in the face,” said Chris Goldschmidt, president of Jackhammer, Birmingham, Ala., sharing the aggravation of executives at other Alabama shops, including Lewis Advertising in Birmingham and Sullivan-St. Clair in Mobile. “The first loyalty of a state government should be to the people of that state and not to a buddy in Memphis,” he added.
ADO development director Ira Silberman, who worked with Walker in the past, said in a statement that his “comfort level” with Walker’s abilities drew him to the agency.
Alabama advertising contracts are not required to be bid out as long as they go through the state’s contract review committee. In this case, one committee member balked. “A contract that size should have been at least offered to other Alabama agencies if not formally bid out,” said state representative Bill Fuller, who is also chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Fuller is introducing a law that would create a new bidding process during a special session of the legislature on Aug. 18.
Politics aside, not everyone is miffed. “It’s a little provincial to think a certain account needs to be in a certain city or state,” said Tinsley Van Durand, president of Lawler Ballard Van Durand, Birmingham. Luckie & Co. president Tommy Luckie agreed: “If [Walker is] qualified . . . I don’t think it’s the end of the world.”
Walker & Associates, which also handles Tennessee’s tourism, will leverage the new Mercedes plant in Alabama as it promotes the state nationally and internationally.
“Our goal will be to . . . build on the image that Alabama has as an attractive business climate,” said Walker & Associates president and chief executive officer Ceil Walker.
–with Jim Osterman