Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 10 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

Taken at the Snow Hill Institute

After another healthy breakfast at Subway, we met up with our friends and team members from the two high schools at Black Belt Treasures in downtown Camden, and headed out on another beautiful drive in the country side to visit the Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute; a historic place we have been hearing about all summer.

Taken at the Snow Hill Institute

Today we had the great honor of meeting Dr. Donald Stone, the grandson of Dr. William J. Edwards, who founded the Snow Hill Institute.  Dr. Stone imparted on us the love he has for his family history and the vision he has for the future of the Snow Hill Institute. We spent around thirty minutes  sitting on the edge of our seats as he told us the fascinating story of his grandfather’s life and the history of not only the Institute, but of that era.

Taken at the Snow Hill Institute
The story behind the Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute and its ambitious founder is one of hardship, toil, love, heartbreak, determination, resilience, courage, and resourcefulness, which resulted in the movement coined by Dr. Donald Stone, the founder’s grandson, as the “Negro Southern Rural School Movement.”  This movement changed the course of history and not only became the birthplace of African American higher education, but became an epicenter for learning and the spreading of knowledge to everyone.  

Taken at the Snow Hill Institute

The Snow Hill Institute is truly a hidden treasure of Wilcox County.  If the current state of the Institute were turned around, the Snow Hill Institute has the potential of being one of the main attractions for the county.  Above the obvious restoration of buildings and land, the Snow Hill Institute has aspirations of having a building dedicated as a museum and one as a library and keeper of historic records. The Snow Hill Institute has the potential of being a prime tourist stop. One key attraction that would bring people in droves is the one man play and history presentation by Dr. Donald Stone.

Today, there is an ongoing effort to bring this dream to life. We at UAB, hope that we will continue to be given the opportunity, privilege, and honor, to play a small part in making this dream a reality.

The rest of the day we spent working on the final document that we will be presenting to the Chamber of Commerce, Black Belt Treasurers, and the UAB Business School Dean’s Office.

Day 9- The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

Today was the BIG day. The UAB School of Business Dean, Dr. Klock, Associate Deans, Dr. Jack and Dr. Kennedy, and Communications Director, Julie Senter, made the trip down to Camden to hear a presentation on what we have been doing. Joining them from Wilcox County was Sulynn Creswell from Black Belt Treasures, Jim Emerson, a retired activist, John Matthews, a community volunteer and Floyd Harris from the Wilcox Area Chamber.
Daniel and Olu presenting SWOT

The presentation started out with one of our UAB instructors, Jake Gelber, giving a brief introduction. Daniel, Olu, Alex Hutcheson and Ty'Deirdre Soan introduced the SWOT analysis that had been created. Debbie and Allondra Pettway explained how the logo and tagline were formed. They also showed a rough draft of the two brochures that had been created. Next, Eboni and Scouterrious Robinson showed the group the Facebook page and the blog. She briefly described why social networking is a key advertising component. Derek and Caroline Howell presented the suggestions for the Chamber website and Black Belt Treasures website. They also previewed a template of the new Chamber website that had been suggested. Gabby and Hannah Thompson proposed the idea of implementing a business incubator here in the county. Finally, Dr. Oliver briefly explained what we would be doing at the Snow Hill Institute on Wednesday.
Gabby presenting the Incubator

 After hearing our presentation, Dean Klock was ecstatic to see the work that had been done. He mentioned that the project was "something special". He and the Associate Deans had nothing but positive words for the group. They look forward to continuing the work here in Wilcox County. 
Next, the entire group headed to lunch at the marina on the river. The lunch was superb and included burgers, fries, fish and sandwiches.

The UAB students and high schools students left the marina and headed to Black Belt Treasures. Six of the artists that are displayed at the store showed up to be video interviewed by the students. Sulynn will use these video interviews to highlight artists on her website in the future. The six artists had incredible stories behind their artwork and it was a pleasure meeting them and hearing the stories behind the work.
High school students working at BBT

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 8- The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

We were so impressed by breakfast at Jackson Fried Chicken, we decided to go there again this morning. After a delicious meal, we headed back to Black Belt Treasures to continue the work that we started on Friday.

The high school students and UAB students broke up into the same groups from Friday. One group finished typing up descriptions to the pieces of artwork, another tagged the artwork and the third group took photos of the pieces. Once finished we all headed back to the Chamber to enjoy a party tray from Subway for lunch.
Students at Black Belt Treasures

The afternoon was spent prepping for our big presentation on Tuesday morning. Each UAB student was assigned a section of the agenda that we had been working on. A high school student paired up with a UAB student to help plan their part of the presentation. We worked very hard all afternoon in hopes of  impressing our distinguished guests the following morning.

For dinner, we ventured to Larry's Drive-In in Camden. Surprisingly, it was one place we had yet to try! You cannot miss the bright pink and blue drive-in. The drive-in is similar to a Sonic. You can order through a drive thru window or walk up and dine outside. The menu offered a variety of items such as hamburgers, chicken, fish, ice cream and much more! We were able to meet two young ladies from Wilcox Academy, Khaki and Farrah Gaston, whose dad owns the place. They were pleased to hear about the project and had some great ideas to offer the group. We would definitely recommend Larry's because of the scrumptious food and wonderful hospitality!
Larry's Drive-In

Day 6 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

Today gave us a chance to finally recuperate after a long week of work and discussions. We began our day with another trip to Subway. Afterwards, we headed to Buena Vista, a small town with a population of 1 (talk about a massive population).  We meet up with David Steele, a lawyer who is one of the trustees for a family that owns 20,000 acres in the area! Mr. Steele told us how John James Frinklea, the original owner of the land, expressed in his will that he wanted to have the land use for educational and recreational purposes. We made a stop at one of Frinklea’s store which remains committed as the outfitter for the great outdoors. As we were inside, we came across David Steele’s older son who spoke to us about his outlook on the community.

(Taken in Beatrice)

Soon after, we took a small tour around Beatrice. David Steele was so gracious enough to buy us lunch and allowed us to stay in two of his homes that he maintains. Olu, Daniel, Mr. Oliver and his wife ended up staying in the nicer home out of the two while Debbie, Derrick, Eboni, and Mr. Gelber headed back to the motel in Camden for wireless internet usage since there was no wireless internet at either of the two homes.

 (Taken outside Buena Vista)

Both Daniel and Olu were given the tasks to compile and form a comprehensive SWOT analysis from all the documents done from each group. Debbie focused on finishing the brochure while Eboni and Derrick worked on the blog and website. Daniel and Olu figured it would be great to go for a run after reaching a halfway point in forming the SWOT analysis. The two ended up traveling 15 miles to visit a park eventually running a total of 6 miles alongside a country highway!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 5 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

We began the day at the Camden Subway restaurant. As we indulged in a small yet fulfilling breakfast, we chat about all the activities that had taken place earlier in the week. After breakfast, we headed to Black Belt Treasures where the high school students awaited us. Our goal for the day was to aid Mrs. Sulynn, Director of BlackBelt Treasures, with the store website to provide a better online presence.

(Taken at Black Belt Treasures)

We started by getting in our small groups that were assigned at the beginning of the week. Each group was assigned a task and we worked as if we were on an assembly line. It was beautiful to see such teamwork going on. Group #2, headed by Debbie Harris, had the task of separating all the artist photographs and labeling them and filing them for later use.

(Taken at Black Belt Treasures)

Group #1 and Group #3, headed by Derrick and Eboni worked collectively on first getting the measurements for each product to be sold on the website, then labeling each product with numbers for the potography crew, and lastly writing attractive and informative descriptions for each product, which was well done by Debbie, Daniel, and Ty' Deirdre.

(Taken at Black Belt Treasures)
Group #4, headed by Olu, photographed all the inventory in the photo lab and then returned the merchandise back to its original place in the store.

About noon, the group took a break for a hearty lunch at Hunter's Run with guest Mrs. Sulynn and Jim Emerson.  After lunch we returned back to our delegated assignments. At 4 p.m. everyone retired for the weekend. Yay it's Friday!!!

Friday afternoon we went to Southern Inn Restaurant, where we enjoyed yet another delightful dinner. After dinner, we met by the pool to have an informational meeting to discuss our plans for the upcoming visit from the School of Business Dean and Associate Deans. The day was a success.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 4 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

(Picture taken at Jackson Fried Chicken)

Our day started off with a good ole’ country breakfast at Jackson Fried Chicken. From grits to homemade biscuits to salmon patties, there was something for everyone. While there we ran into the owner, Ms. Jackson. She was tickled for the business and excited to hear about the project. Once our stomachs were full, we headed over to the Chamber to get started on work.

(Picture taken at the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce)

The agenda for the morning was to begin reviewing the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce website. The website is in need of improvement and the students offered many ideas to change it. Derrick Strong, our web designer, will soon begin implementing these changes. Before we knew it, lunchtime arrived. We were so impressed by Miss Kitty’s on Monday that we decided to return for lunch today!

(Picture taken at the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce)

The afternoon consisted of reviewing the Black Belt Treasures website, a similar process we used in the morning. Ms. Sulynn Creswell, Director of Black Belt Treasures, had requested any ideas and changes that we could make to improve their website. Just like with the Chamber site, the students had  an abundance of ideas. These ideas will be presented to Ms. Sulynn tomorrow we when head to Black Belt Treasures.

Day 3 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

Our day got off to a good start by having a healthy breakfast at Subway. We met the high school students at the local Methodist church’s youth annex because the Chamber of Commerce was not open. The agenda for the day was branding. Students broke up into groups to brainstorm taglines and logos for the county. The creative juices coming from the groups were overwhelming. Creative slogans and taglines were shared and even artistic logos were presented. A variety of these taglines and logos will be featured in future brochures and websites associated with the county.

(Picture taken at the Annex)

After a quick lunch at Hardees, the group came back to the annex to continue our work. Taking the taglines and logos from the morning, we began putting together ideas for two brochure types: tourism and retirees. One group filed through hundreds of photos that would fit our tourism and retiree themes. The other group began detailing a logo that would go on the brochures. The meeting ended with a compilation of photos and a finished logo.

(Picture taken at the Smith's Home)

For the evening our group was graciously invited to have dinner with Lathrom and Garland Smith at their historic, 1800 Antebellum home. The home was originally built by a crooked lawyer and later purchased on the steps of the courthouse by Garlands great grandfather. As you enter the house you can view the only double cantilevered stairs in an antebellum home, in the state of Alabama. The first floor of the house is mostly in its original condition. After exploring the house and eating a variety of hors d'oeuvres, we all sat down to a candle-lit dinner. Mr. Lathrom cooked succotash and pork tenderloin with tomatoes and raspberry vinaigrette. It was delicious! During the dinner, Lathrom and Garland offered us many suggestions on the project and praised us for the work already done. After dinner Garland treated us all to delectable, fresh peaches and vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 2 - The Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project

(Picture taken at the Marina)

We began the day with a chance meeting at the local Hardee’s with some of the high school students whom we have been working with on the Wilcox Co./Camden, AL project. After having breakfast, we headed over to the Chamber of Commerce. To encourage team work and an overall sense of comfort between the two high schools and us, we engaged in an “Ice Breaker” exercise.

In order to further encourage participation and the union of students from all three schools, we broke up into small groups to work on our S.W.O.T. analysis and brainstorm on what business ventures could be undertaken to attract our target markets. We then came back together to discuss and merge our ideas.

Lunch time quickly rolled around. Led by the local students who knew the area, we headed out to eat with a brief stop at the marina that we have been hearing so much about. We had lunch at the Southern Inn Restaurant, enjoying a savory traditional country buffet.

(Picture taken at Black Belt Treasures)

Our next destination was the renowned Black Belt Treasures. Sulynn Creswell, the Director, started by giving us a brief, yet colorful overview of the history and purpose of Black Belt Treasures. Ms. Creswell then led us in a discussion on ideas that we might have pertaining to issues ranging from cataloging and inventory to capturing unreached market segments and web design. Through this discussion, we, the UAB students, developed a deeper understanding of the Black Belt Treasures organization and were able to give several insightful ideas and suggestions. Ms. Creswell then led us on a brief tour of the store, intriguing us with the individual backgrounds of the featured artists and the stories behind their arts and crafts. During the tour, we encountered a surprise guest. It was none other than the one and only Ms. Sharon Dozier, whose paintings have been the most sought after out of almost 400 artists.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Southern Inn. After some brief R & R, we shot across the highway to Hunter’s Run Pub & Grill where we enjoyed another spectacular meal. As we were getting ready to leave, wouldn’t you know it, we ran into more people that we knew; Garland and Lathrop Smith, the lovely couple who have graciously invited us to have dinner with them tomorrow night. We are extremely honored and excited to be here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Local Entrepreneur

While dining at Subway, we had the pleasure of meeting a local entrepreneur. She owned a jewelry repair business called Camden Jewelry and Gifts, with a store in Camden and several stores spread across the Black Belt counties. She gave us first-hand knowledge on the various activities that tourists can engage in throughout Wilcox County. The thing that we are most impressed by is the pure, historic southern-tradition and lifestyle that visitors can experience in this area.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome to Camden

First Day in Camden

We arrived at The Southern Inn in Camden after two hours and fifteen minutes. The trip was full of beautiful scenery and the drive to Camden was surprisingly comfortable.

The Southern Inn, located at 40 Camden Bypass, offered clean rooms and a very quiet environment. We dropped our luggage in our various rooms and ten minutes later we went to lunch at Ms. Kitty's, located at 101 Union Street. The menu had a nice mix of Southern delicacies such as collard greens, fried fish and black eyed peas. The hostess was professional and the service was fast.

After lunch, we quickly headed back to The Southern Inn, rested for an hour and headed to the local Chamber of Congress to meet a few students from the high schools in Camden. At the Chamber of Commerce, we met the director of Black Belt Treasures, Sulynn Creswell, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Floyd Harris, the public school teacher, Brenda Autry and a history teacher at Wilcox Academy, Farrell Wright. We brainstormed a few ideas that could bring in fantastic tourist and retirees. We informed the students of the diverse group of people at UAB as well as UAB's wide range of opportunities.

Our meeting was very successful and we left for Southern Inn shortly after. After a few hours at the hotel, we had a quick dinner at Subway located at 2 Camden Bypass.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

About Wilcox County

Wilcox County is located in the center of the ‘Black Belt’ region of southern Alabama. This region is named for its dark black topsoil that lies over a limestone base. It extends from the Mississippi state line in the west. Wilcox County is also near the Georgia state line to the east, Tuscaloosa to the north and Florida to the south. This unique geology has been key in shaping the area’s history along with the modern day physical, cultural and economic landscape.

Wilcox County was founded in 1819 and covers an approximate area of 888 square miles. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of Wilcox County in 2008 to be 12,803 people. The largest cities in the county include Pine Hill with a population near 1,000 and Camden, the county seat, with approximately 2,250 residents. The county is largely rural with the majority of land being used for timber or crop production.

The Alabama River flows through the county and is a major economic and recreational resource. Lake Dannelly located to the northeast of Camden is created by the Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam on the Alabama River. This lake provides many recreation opportunities within the county and is a destination for many local residents and tourists.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What is the meaning of "One Tank Treasures"?

UAB students decided to name the project "One Tank Treasures" because Wilcox Co./Camden, AL offers many tourism treasures. It only takes one tank of gas to travel to and from Wilcox County from many of Alabama's major cities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wilcox County Tourism Opportunities

Wilcox Co./Camden Project Objectives

The following activities will be executed by the UAB interns in Wilcox County this summer:

1.      Assist Black Belt Treasures business, specializing in retail sales of artistic works, by providing technical assistance for their website:

a.       Black Belt Treasures is implementing a barcode point-of-sales retail system that should be in place by 7/15/2011.

b.      UAB students and local high school students can assist this implementation effort by tagging and bar-coding all the artwork and linking them to the website.

c.       UAB students can get hands-on experience with the detailed software issues that are involved with promoting sales of the artwork on the black belt treasures website while managing data and supporting interviews and profiles of the artists.

2.      Develop a marketing plan for the local chamber of commerce.

a.       Both UAB students and the local high school students will help develop a marketing strategy report.

b.      There are two target markets to be addressed: tourists and retirees.

c.       Students will analyze the data and help develop the brand and tag line that the chamber can use for their branding campaign to promote businesses in their area.

d.      Students will also research and develop the information packets for both target markets (i.e., packets for fishermen/hunters and packets for retirees).

e.       Students will investigate the feasibility of the chamber of commerce developing an incubator for a food kitchen that can be used by local start-up businesses.

3. Interns will work with high school students from both the private and public schools .

         a.       Work with the principals from both schools to select participants (one teacher and five students) from each school (total of 10 students and 2 teachers).

b.      UAB faculty and students will work with high school students to develop a written document and presentation about how they view the economic opportunities/possibilities for jobs in Camden.

c.       UAB students will also work with the high school students to expose them to skills that are needed in order to be successful in college (college prep).

d.      Students and teachers will be paid to participate in this program.

4.      Provide services to the Snow Hill Institute, founded in 1893 for the descendants of African slaves.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who are We are / What is the Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project?

Welcome to the official blog site for the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business (SoB) Student Volunteers/Scholars and Faculty for the Wilcox Co./Camden, AL Project. Students from the UAB school of Business are developing a marketing plan for the local chamber of commerce in Wilcox County. The plan is aimed at promoting tourism and retirement opportunities available in the Camden. 
Wilcox County is home to many attractions such as:  

1.The Wilcox County Courthouse/ Public Library-Downtown Camden
Black Belt Treasures -
Wilcox Female Institute
First Presbyterian Church-Downtown Camden
United Methodist Church-Downtown Camden
2. Gee’s Bend Ferry -
3. Gee’s Bend Quilters -
4. Lower Coastal Plain Substation
5. Roland Cooper State Park
6. Bridgeport Public Use Area
7. Gaines Ridge Dinner Club -
8. Snow Hill Institute -
9. Pine Apple Historic District -
10. Millers Ferry Campground -
11.East Bank Public Use Area
12. Training Dike Park
13. Shell Creek Park
14. Clifton Ferry Public Use Area
15. Pine Hill Depot Museum
16. Holleys Ferry Access Point
17. Gullett’s Bluff Park
18. Bear Creek Park
19. Winters Pecans -
20. Alabama River

For lodging, Wilcox county provides hotels and motels such as

1.  Southern Inn -
2.  American Inn
3.  Pine Apple Lodge -
4.  Riverbend Hunting Lodge -

Wilcox County offers a variety of restaurants including :

1.   AL Seafood Market & Restaurant
2.   Broad Street CafĂ©
3.   Southern Seafood and Steakhouse -
4.   Hunter’s Run Pub and Grill -
5.   Frankland’s Fried Chicken
6.   Gainesridge Dinner Club -
7.  Hunter’s Run
8.  Jackson Fried Chicken
9.  Pancake House
10. Uncle Red’s Soul Food & BBQ