After another hearty breakfast we headed to the Chamber of Commerce where we met the high school students and Mr. Holliman,who is the director of the Black Belt Research and ExtensionCenter. He took us to a location where as many as fifty species of bamboo have been planted for the sake of research. Above the interesting facts that we learned about the various bamboo, a key take away that related directly to our project was how easily the bamboo has been kept from spreading. While the bamboo has been growing in the designated areas since the 1960’s, it has been kept at bay by simply cutting the new growth 2-3 times a year with equipment similar to that of a lawn mower; only on a much larger scale.
Afterwards we headed back to the Chamber where we were joined by Jim Bonner, a data expert and mathematician.He informed us of the importance of being able to accurately identify how profitable or not bamboo growing and exporting could be for the Bamboo Company and Wilcox County.
Around 12 PM, the research group, left for lunch at a local eatery in downtown Camden, Alabama. The dinner was called K-John's Catering. According to Kahlil Marshall, a student of Wilcox Central, the dinner has an admirable assortment of meals.The owner, Kerri Helmers, recommended the COB. Kahlil claims that the meal was quite delicious. If you wish to know more about K-Johns, go to their Facebook page here:
After visiting the bamboo field with Jimmy Holiman of AU National Resources Education Center, the Factory Team met with Mrs. Joyce Walls of the Wilcox County Reappraisal Office. Mrs. Joyce was very resourceful. She provided us with a map of Wilcox County which will allow us to "pin" commercial lots and industrial sites throughout Wilcox County; shared information about the zoning process for each city within the county; encouraged us to visit their website at www.flagshipgis.net; suggested that we visit Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission office to obtain information on available property throughout Alabama's BlackBelt region; and thanked us for what we are going in Wilcox County.
From the county courthouse, we went to the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission office and talked with Commissioner Max Curl. Commisioner Curl allowed us to see the poster outline of Golden Dragon, the new copper tubing plant that will be opening soon. As a community leader, Commissioner Curl shared two benefits of WilcoxCounty: natural resources and residential living along the river. He also shared plans of new workforce development centers for this area which will prepare residents in this county for opportunities such as the bamboo manufacturing facility. One of the downfalls that Commissioner Curl, like others, see is transportation. He stated that if there could be funding placed back into the "dredging" of the river, it will be a cost effective way to transport the goods. Commissioner Curl also shared information about the tax abatement incentive and allowed us to speak with Brandon Wilkerson, who is the Grant Writer for AL-TOM Reg. Commission. Brandon provided us with a copy of the Wilcox County Comprehensive plan. What was most interesting about our meeting with Commissioner Curl is the learning of the partnerships that is being created. As we are learning of this project,teamwork is the key to our success. It is great seeing that the local municipalities are working together for the good of the Alabama Black Belt region.
Learning about fifty species of bamboo
From the AL-Tom Reg.Commission, we went to the CamdenCity Hall where we met with the Zoning Manager, Randolph Wilkerson. Mr.Wilkerson has a lot of experience under his belt and shared with us, using a city map, a number of locations that is suitable for a facility. During our conversation, he confirmed Mrs. Walls comment on the flexibility of the city when it comes to zoning. While sharing other helpful information, he encouraged us to look at neighboring cities such as Catherine, Pine Hill, Linden, and Sardis. One of the "red flags" that Mr.Wilkerson sees with the available property in Camden is the cutting down of the timber which will increase the initial budget if not included in the initial one. Like everyone else, Mr. Wilkerson offered himself as a future resource to us.
Before we left the the City Hall we were given the opportunity and the honor of speaking with the Mayor of Camden, Max Baggett, Jr. The Mayor was very supportive of the project and pleased that we had returned to Camden and WilcoxCounty.