Program targets area outdoors

Published 10:46 pm Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TYLER — To Ray Scott, the founder of Bassmasters, the idea was a no-brainer.

Two years ago, he sat with Alabama economic development officials who had an idea about creating jobs in the Black Belt region by using its most dominant asset: the rich soil and the outdoors resources it creates.

He said he really didn’t hop on board fully until the past month.

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“It is taking something so obviously evident and putting a saddle on it,” Scott said Wednesday at the launch of Alabama Black Belt Adventures to an audience of 100-plus people at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge east of Selma.

Black Belt Adventures is a marketing initiative that targets outdoors enthusiasts who want to experience the region’s rich resources. A Web site — — explains the program’s details.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters. “Where else can you hunt something for seven months out of the year?”

State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, was instrumental in the formation of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures.

“We want to take the Black Belt’s abundant resources and use them to create jobs and opportunities for all our people,” Knight said. “We want to take the God-given and natural resources of the Black Belt and use them to promote them to help all people of the Black Belt. The launch of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures is the first to make this dream a reality.”

Barnett Lawley, commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the traditional economic development methods have not been productive in the region.

“We came to the realization that heavy industry such as the automotive industry was not going to work for several reasons in the Black Belt,” Lawley said. “One was infrastructure and one being the lack of work force.

“What we did realize: there was no shortage of natural resources and outdoor opportunities within the Black Belt,” he said.

Lawley said the response to the initiative has been overwhelming.

Scott predicted more people will join the bandwagon when they learn about the program.

“This is a very historic occasion,” Scott said at the news conference. “I don’t think anybody realizes how important this is.”