Joint effort brings Wal-Mart to Brundidge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 7, 2001

Staff Writer

A "well-coordinated" effort helped bring a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center to Brundidge.

That is what Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas called the joint efforts of the city of Brundidge, Alabama Development Office, Pike County Chamber of Commerce, the local legislative delegation and other groups who assisted during meetings with corporate representatives. The result will be a $40 million investment in the Brundidge center.

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Thomas outlined tangible and intangible things that led up to the Sept. 27 announcement regarding construction on the 900,000-square-foot building, scheduled to begin in the spring of 2002 and be complete in September 2003. Hiring will begin in the summer of 2003.

Tangible things include public infrastructure, such as a new electric substation, relocation of an existing electric transmission line and ability to meet Wal-Mart’s water and sewer requirements.

The city will add a 400-gallon-per-minute water well to serve the center’s needs, and the state will make improvements to County Road 6. With the new well, the city will be able to provide the 125,000 gallons of water per day needed by the facility.

"The city had to plan for that. We could have met that, but we would have been maxed out," Thomas said of adding the third well.

Ultimately, Britt said, the new well will serve Brundidge’s long-term needs as well. The city’s two other wells – one built in 1948 and the other built in 1969 – can provide 740 gallons per minute.

Of course, the cooperation of landowners was a key, Thomas said.

James Rugg, Raybon Graham and Johnny Garrett all owned property on the 300-acre site on Pike County Road 6, across from the Brundidge Country Club. But, it is Rugg who will be giving up his home of 30 years for the benefit of the entire community.

"In the end, Mr. Rugg said, ‘it’s the right thing to do for Brundidge.,’" Thomas said.

Even with all those things falling into place, it was the intangible things, Thomas said, that closed the deal.

For example, the executive team that made the site visit landed at the Troy Municipal Airport. There, members were delighted to see some restored World War II planes in the hangars. "That sort of topped the day off," Thomas said, adding the executives had the opportunity to see and touch the kinds of aircraft their fathers flew during the war.

It was those types of things – the things nobody could plan — that may have made a difference in Wal-Mart’s final decision, Thomas said.

"That particular day is what did it, I think," he said of the day that included a meeting at Troy State University and visit to the actual site.

Brundidge competed with Baldwin County and Crestview, Fla., for what will become the third Wal-Mart distribution center in the state. The other two distribution facilities are in Opelika and Cullman.

"Mayor (Jimmy) Ramage did a tremendous job," Thomas said. "He touched the right people at the right time."

Although Thomas and Ramage headed up the city’s side of the deal, it was a true team effort. "It was sold as Pike County," Thomas said of the deal. "It would not have worked in the Wal-Mart organization as a Brundidge thing."

Thomas said Wal-Mart wanted "to hear a lot" about things, such as housing availability, religion and law enforcement, in addition to infrastructure.

That was where the Pike County Chamber of Commerce was able to help by supplying information. "Marsha (Gaylard, president of the Chamber) did a great job for Pike County," Thomas said.

And, of all those involved, everything went off without a hitch, according to Thomas.

"They didn’t miss a heartbeat all day," Thomas said. "It was fluid. That day gave them the confidence in the Pike County community and that the community could do what it said it could do."

Gov. Don Siegelman’s office also played a major role, Thomas said.

"The governor had a responsibility to get them in the state. We had a responsibility to get them in the community. The attitude of the Pike County community is what sold it.

"Everybody had a part. It was a massive project and it’s going to be a massive facility."