Business, agriculture see improvements

Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This year, Pike County experienced many changes in business and agriculture.

The majority were positive improvements for Pike County.

The following are just a few highlights from 2008.

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Farmers see end to two-year drought

For the last two years, the state of Alabama experienced a drought.

But just in time for Christmas, Alabama farmers received a great gift, the drought ended.

Pike County Extension Agent Tammy Powell said the drought that had plagued the state for years has left Pike County crops scarce for at least the last two years, and if the drought doesn’t stay away, this year could be the worst yet.

“This past year was better than in previous years,” Powell said. “But, a lot of farmers could not have gone another year financially. It’s hard to go year after year when you’re starting out with a deficit.”

And though there is no predicting what will happen come planting season in the spring, Powell said this will shine at least a glimmer of hope for now.

Even some farmers are seeing the results now, with winter wheat and fruits planted in the ground.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Holli Britton said the forecast for Pike County will leave rain chances at or just slightly below normal water levels for the next months.

Lockheed Martin gets approval

In May, Lockheed Martin received government approval to continue production of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, which is manufactured the company’s Troy facility.

After a series of successful reliability characterization tests, Lockheed Martin received approval to continue development and production of the JASSM.

“Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Young and Secretary Payton, and their commitment to candid communication with the industry team, we have successfully demonstrated JASSM’s reliability and validated the need for the world’s first stealthy standoff cruise missile,” said Chris Kubasik, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Electronics Systems.

JASSM is an autonomous, long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision standoff missile designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets.

The recertification approval paves the way for continued development of the longer JASSM-ER system.

Lockheed was officially awarded a $107 million contract to produce JASSM for the Air Force in June.

“I think it’s a win, win, win situation,” said Rick Hulchur, site director for Pike County Operations.

Troy Regional Medical Center under new ownership

A group of local doctors purchased Troy Regional Medical Center Feb. 1.

The purchase ended months of uncertainty about the hospital’s future.

The board members include Dr. Mark Griffin, Gil McKenzie, Dr. Wilton McRae, Dr. John Crosby, Dr. Tim Eakes, Dr. Peter M. DiChiara, Dr. Richard Schloemer and Dr. Hank Pahlene. Other investors include, Dr. Phyleca Cheatham, Dr, Jeev Singh, Dr. Adolpho Roblado and Dr. Christina Zanakis.

Troy City Council President Johnny Witherington said he was pleased to see the hospital under the ownership of local doctors.

“We have a group of local doctors who have made health care in this county their livelihood and they have now moved beyond that to become investors,” Witherington said.

“This is a new day for us and the hospital, and we want to make a clean break with the past,” Griffin said.

Local banks make improvement for customers

In efforts to improve the quality of banking, two local banks made great strides in 2008.

Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union opened a new branch July 14.

The new location is on Hwy. 87, about a half-mile from its former location in Southland Plaza.

The new building is about 4,500 square feet.

“It’s easier to get in and out of, it’s more convenient,” said Faye LaBounty, branch manager of the Troy location.

The new location has a drive through, drive through ATMs, safety deposit, boxes, a coin counting machine and more tellers.

In July, the People’s Bank of Coffee County and Troy Bank & Trust.

“Both banks have been owned by Henderson BancShares since 1997, but have been operated as two separate banks.

We have revamped our products and services and believe we have made them even more competitive for our customers.

Also, we have a new rewards checking program that we will launch in September that we know our customers will really like, Gary Guthrie, president and CEO of Troy Bank and Trust.

Camp Butter and Egg continues to grow

In 2000, Ron Pierce began offering baseball day camps on his property, which quickly grew in popularity.

The idea grew from Pierce’s love of baseball.

Pierce was a former All-Gulf South Conference pitchers for Troy University.

He spent decades coaching various levels of recreation league baseball.

“We started out small, but the numbers grew extremely well,” Pierce said.

The camp soon green when it implemented other camps including soccer and softball, as well as a variety of outdoor activities, such as wall climbing and canoeing under the Camp Butter and Egg moniker.

As the facilities continued to expand, the Pierce’s set a full schedule for day camps for the summer.

“The activities are perfect for getting groups working together and thinking about problem solving,” Susan Pierce said.

Ron said his goal is to continue expanding Camp Butter and Egg, potentially adding an overnight component in the future.

“We’re looking at possibly building a 20-man barracks,” he said.