Chamber bestows honors
The roots that tie people to Pike County grew a little deeper on Friday as the Pike County Chamber of Commerce honored its individual and business of the year.
Wiley Lott, with Wal-Mart corporation, and Brundidge-based Carter Brothers Manufacturing were recognized during the chamber’s annual banquet with an "Honorary Pike County Citizen" award and with the Industry of the Year award.
"(Wiley’s) heart and roots remain in Pike County," said Alex Whaley Sr., immediate past chairman of the chamber board. "Wiley gave us the opportunity (to bring a Wal-Mart distribution center to Pike County)."
Lott, director of real estate-distribution centers for Wal-Mart, was instrumental in putting Pike County on the list of possible locations for the new distribution center. That center, which will employ nearly 600 people, is scheduled to open in late summer 2003 in Brundidge.
"Wiley said, ‘I came from a great place,’" Whaley said. "And his involvement means a lot to us."
Attorney Keith Watkins accepted the award on behalf of Lott, who was unable to attend because of a family medical emergency. "Wiley said he is honored and humbled by the outpouring of friendship and support," Watkins said. More important, Watkins said, "he truly believes this project will help improve the lives of Pike Countians for years to come."
Lott is a native of Pike County and was raised in Brundidge. He now lives in Arkansas with his wife and two children. And, "on a personal note to the City of Brundidge, Wiley said he can think of nothing more meaningful to him than having the road (leading to the new distribution center) named after his grandmother," Watkins said.
Watkins also said Lott wanted to recognize the role that Pike County leaders played in securing the distribution center. While Lott helped put Pike County on the short list of potential locations, the work of Chamber, city and county leaders earned Pike County the selection. "He wants to sort of put the ball back in our court. He said none of this could be possible without the teamwork of people in Pike County and Alabama."
While Lott’s award celebrated the teamwork that helped capitalize on an opportunity, the award presented to Carter Brothers Manufacturing recognized the teamwork that found an opportunity in adversity. "This award is for perseverance, I think," Whaley said.
Carter Brothers, a 66-year-old go-cart manufacturing company, lost its facility to fire in December 2000. Having already rebuilt once – a tornado destroyed the plant in 1989 – the company leaders faced a difficult challenge that year. "But they chose to stay in Pike County," Whaley said. "And by the end of March (2001) they were manufacturing go-carts in barns, in people’s garages, in empty buildings in Brundidge … if I’ve ever seen adversity turned into opportunity, this is it."
Stewart Ard accepted the honor on behalf of the company. "Everyone was so helpful in our making the decision to remain in Pike County," he said. "We didn’t want to leave; Pike County is our home."
Joking that the "young company" is only in its second generation, Ard also said the expansion that came as part of the rebuilding in 2001 helps secure Carter Brothers future. "I expect because of the expansion our company will be much, much more active in our industry."