Mining the Black Belt for treasures

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Special to the Times-Journal

Do you know someone who creates or produces unique items in Alabama’s Black Belt counties? Perhaps a talented artist, or a craftsman, or builder, or someone who makes a delicious food product?

Black Belt Treasures is looking for entrepreneurs such as these in the Black Belt counties.

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A new business venture of the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, Black Belt Treasures seeks to identify and cultivate emerging business as well as help market existing products which are unique to our region.

As a non-profit organization, the goal is to enhance the earning potential for entrepreneurs in the Black Belt as well as creating new opportunities for business development using items and products made in the Black Belt.

The Black Belt is an area running through south central Alabama stretching from the Mississippi border nearly to the Georgia line.

The seventeen counties covered are:

Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington, and Wilcox.

This area was named after the rich black soil that was ideally suited for growing cotton. However, as the farms and plantations disappeared the area became high in unemployment, and as Alabama began to grow and prosper, this area was left behind.

Black Belt Treasures has partnered with the University of Alabama, and Ala-Tom Resource Conservation and Development to develop a website which will promote and sell items made in the Black Belt. The Web site will open the Black Belt to the world, so the wealth of talent and the unique quality in the region can be seen.

Offerings will include artwork, such as paintings, prints, sculptures; crafts such as pottery, baskets, woodworks; handmade furniture; literature by Black Belt authors along with regional cookbooks; and food items that meet commercial sale requirements.

Also offered will be themed gift baskets filled with items from the region, which will be an excellent way to share a range of products representative of the area.

In addition to the Web site, there will be a gallery shop located in Camden that will display and sell items. The business plans to be up and running by October 1, 2005.

“The Black Belt has a unique culture and history, and much talent has sprung from our ability to make do with what we have,” says director Delia Brand. “We look forward to sharing our talents with the rest of the world.”

The Black Belt Treasures team is in the process of visiting the 17 counties and finding entrepreneurs who are interested in promoting their products. Items will go through a jury process to ensure they meet Black Belt Treasures standards of quality, originality, and creativity.

To submit an item for consideration, or to get more information, contact Delia Brand, Black Belt Treasures Director at 334-682-4234, or email