GOZA presents several possibilities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2006

With the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act and $2.1 billion just waiting to be divided among 11 counties, there has never been a better time to think about starting a business in the Balack Belt.

Of course, to make that business flourish, a prospective owner must offer something the people want. Fortunately, there is plenty of room for all sorts of new endeavors in Demopolis.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say “I wish we had this, or that business in Demopolis.”

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In some cases, these wishes will never come true because the population and customer base simply isn’t available to support it. But, there are other ideas I think could succeed.

Among the most promising requests is a wing shack/sports bar. I am certain this has been attempted before, but throughout football season, I heard numerous people say how much they would like to have a place specifically geared toward eating, relaxing and watching the big game on Saturday night. There are several places around town that get the job done and do it well, but I think there is room for wings in the mix.

Number two on the list is Chuck E. Cheese. When this proposition is thrown out, the reaction is always one of skepticism.

Since Chuck E. Cheese is usually reserved for towns with a population of 50,000 or more, no one thinks the big rat could succeed in Demopolis. As someone who walks through the city and county schools of this area a lot, I challenge this logic. After helping to type last year’s “Letters to Santa,” I am convinced that there are no less than 600 million elementary school-aged children in the Black Belt. That sounds like a pretty solid customer base to me.

If pizza, children and wings don’t sound like an appealing business venture, there is another option in food service that is incapable of failure. Open a Popeye’s. Ever since Kentucky Fried Chicken closed down, I have seen several people in Demopolis suffering through late night yard-bird withdrawals. When you take chicken away from Alabamians, it is not a pretty sight. Even though KFC is on its way back, there is still room for Popeye’s. It doesn’t matter where you put this longtime favorite, people will find it and people will like it. There are few occasions I drive through Selma or Meridian that I don’t swing through for some spicy goodness and an apple pie.

Of course, feeding the good people of Demopolis is not every businessperson’s cup of tea. If this is the case, open a bowling alley. If I had a dime for everyone I hear discussing weekend plans to go to Tuscaloosa or Meridian to bowl, I could retire.

Bowling existed in Demopolis in the past. I am not sure why it is no longer here, but I think there is definitely a place for it. Young people bowl, high school kids bowl and older people bowl.

And golf and softball aren’t for everyone. For those people, a local bowling league could be just what the doctor ordered to fuel their competitive nature.

My final suggestion for a business venture in Demopolis is a zoo. Okay, there probably isn’t a suitable location or need for a zoo, but it would be cool. Especially, if it were stocked with local oddities. I have no doubt that people would come from miles around to see the water moccasin display. Children would crowd the glass to see the alligator gar clumsily moving through the aquarium. And of course, who wouldn’t want to see the armadillos doing, well, whatever it is armadillos do when they’re not ruining lawns or being hit by cars.

I am the first to admit all these suggestions are hair-brained plans that probably have no hope at all of becoming a reality.

But, with GOZA the possibilities are limitless and that is the most important thing to keep in mind.

When representatives arrive next Monday and Tuesday, don’t be afraid to present them with your ideas.

This is definitely a case where there are no stupid questions, and you never know, you may get positive feedback and have the opportunity to supply your fellow citizens with a service they have always wanted.

-Rick Couch is News Editor of The Demopolis Times. He can be reached at (334) 289-4017 or by e-mailing news@demopolistimes.com