Phillis Belcher and Tiffany Gribsy talking to John Laney, Mayor of Demopolis
The Greene County Industrial Development Authority together with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority and the Marengo County Economic Development Authority sponsored a catfish dinner and barge ride last week to promote waterway transportation as a key element of an industrial and economic development strategy for the area.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the GCIDA, indicated, “Greene County has a thousand acre, Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee, that is served by the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Interstate Highway System, Colonial Pipeline and major railroads. We have one petroleum storage and distribution business in our park, which has a docking and loading facility on the waterway.”
“We supported this dinner and barge trip to promote our industrial park, which has sites for several potential industries, to insure that state and Federal officials as well as private industry representatives are aware of Greene County and other neighboring sites in the Black Belt. Greene County is surrounded by waterways and rivers. The Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway is our eastern boundary; the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway borders our county to the west. We also have the Sipsey River, which is not channelized to our north.”
The dinner on Thursday night, May 26, 2017 was held at the Demopolis Civic Center and attended by 100 public officials from Greene, Marengo and Hale counties. Greene County Commissioners Lester “Bop” Brown and Allen Turner attended as well as Mayor McAlpine and City Council members from Forkland. Several GCIDA Board members including: Dr. Warren Burke, Teresa Beeker and John Zippert also attended the dinner.
On Friday morning, a group of 40 people, boarded a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging and maintenance barge, docked in Demopolis for a three hour trip on the river system. The barge, which is generally used to maintain the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, took the group from the dock down river to the Demopolis Lock and then back north to the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers and five miles, up the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway.
Mitch May, Director of the TTWDA, based in Columbus, Mississippi said his organization was “a four state compact of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky to promote development of industrial and recreational sites along the waterway in cooperation with the state, Federal and local governments, like the Greene County IDA.”
Danny Hensley of the USACoE office in Tuscaloosa, pointed out during the barge ride, “that you can go anywhere East of the Mississippi on the waterway systems; and that the Tennessee Tombigbee and Black Warrior Waterways are a reliable, dependable and cost effective way to ship materials within the U. S. and to international destinations through the Port of Mobile.”
Phillis Belcher, Tiffany Grigsby (Vice Chair) and John Zippert (Secretary) of the Greene County IDA participated in the barge ride.
The barge passed under the Highway 43 Bridge and went past the Demopolis Cement Plant, which relies on barge transportation to ship in raw materials and to ship out its finished products. On the trip the barge met other barges going in both directions, many fishing boats with people enjoying the water and passed many fishing camps nestled along the banks of the river. The barge travels at about 5 to 8 miles an hour depending on currents and load.
“We were not able to take the barge up the Tombigbee to the Crossroads site at Boligee because of the distance. It takes 7 to 8 hours to reach our park by barge from Demopolis. We will plan another trip from the Heflin Lock at Gainesville, on the river to Crossroads some time in the future and invite more Greene County people to experience the values of barge transportation and our location on the waterway,” said Belcher.