By Valerie Flattmann
Bayer CropScience and the National Cotton Women’s Committee named three communities as “Cotton Town USA” in October 2002. Dermott, Ark., Floydada, Texas, and Stamford, Texas, each were awarded a grant of $10,000 for their reliance, culturally and economically, on cotton production. The grants will be used to fund community improvement projects.
“We are proud to award this honor to three towns that have demonstrated a strong commitment to the cotton industry,” said Al Luke, manager of the Bayer CropScience center.
Applicants were asked to complete a nomination form that included telling why their town was a “cotton town,” a short explanation of why their town should receive the award and what would be done with the grant money if their town was selected. In its inaugural year, the Cotton Town USA program received more than 80 applications.
“The quality and number of the Cotton Town USA applications we received surpassed our expectations,” said Cotton Nelson, manager of public relations for the National Cotton Council. “It is quite apparent the applicants are proud of their ‘cotton towns’ and their heritage.”
Cotton Town USA is part of the Cotton Counts program, a consumer awareness campaign aimed at improving the attitudes and understanding of the U.S. cotton industry. Grants are funded by sales from the TEMIK Saver’s Choice program which rewards growers for multiple purchases of Bayer products.
Director of Economic Development, Dora Ross, said Floydada certainly is one of the kings in cotton.
“I included statistics in the application about how our county is really dependent on cotton,” Ross said. “We’ve got 10 cotton gins in the county with over 300 employees during ginning season, and that’s a whole lot of people for a town the size of Floydada.”
Ross says Floydada will use the $10,000 grant from its Cotton Town USA award to help fund a community technology center.
“The technology center is going to be the backbone of trying to improve the economy in Floydada,” she said. “It will give us a place to do workforce development and computer training.” The center also will provide education classes to citizens who do not have the time or opportunity to receive a higher education. Ross said she hopes the center, which opens in February 2003, will help educate Floydada citizens and farmers.
“We have a lot of farmers who are entrepreneurs and are small business owners,” Ross said. “Farming nowadays is a business, and it has to be run like a business as well.”
In Stamford, officials said the grant will be used as “seed money” to preserve the historic heritage of the town. A Cotton Town Cottage, an old house the town plans to raffle off, will be purchased and restored. Funds earned through the raffle will then be used to improve other community buildings like a new technology center.
Stamford resident Paula Bennett wrote in her submission letter, “Can’t you visualize it now: remodeled, freshly painted, trimmed shrubs, a red porch swing and a sign in the yard, ‘Cotton Town Cottage-the House that Cotton rebuilt?'”
In association with the Stamford Community Initiative, Paula Bennett and Myrna Watkins, directors of human resources and grants at the local hospital, collaborated on the application. In the grant application, Bennett and Watkins wrote, “King Cotton built our town, our community, our way of life.”
“I think this definitely will impact the economy,” Stamford Mayor Louis Johnson said. “Especially with the new house being renovated, the community will be improved in a major way. We want to keep families in Stamford, and this may be the way to go.”
Johnson said it would be nice to get a block of houses in the same area that could be renovated on the main “drag” in Stamford.
“This is the best little town off the main road,” he said. “It’s a nationally known town with the Texas Cowboy Reunion, the largest amateur rodeo in the U.S. It’s a town with a lot of attractions, and this title given to us now may put us on the map for sure.”
Stamford often relied on funding from private donations and civic organizations for community projects in the past. Bennett now believes the grant money will help the community come together through a renewed spirit of volunteerism.
“The excess money we receive will help in making it even better,” Bennett said, “and also possibly carrying over to the building of a youth center or repairing the roof of one of our downtown buildings.”
Beginning January 2003, hopes are to have the Cotton Town Cottage completed by the Fourth of July so tickets can be sold at the annual rodeo when Stamford swells with visitors.
“Our ultimate goal is to make it the ‘Fredericksburg’ of West Texas,” Bennett said. “We want people to gravitate to our community. We hope to continue renovations and make the town appealing to visitors and the people in the community.”
Watkins had heard of the grant from her cousin and others who work in the cotton industry. The idea for the house renovation had been in mind for a while.
“The house had been something that I had proposed to another group at a previous time,” Watkins said. “Our ultimate goal is to spotlight rural Texas and let people know how wonderful it is. I recently moved back from Dallas where I had lived for about 40 years. When I came back, I realized what a wonderful place Stamford is to live and what a great community we have here,” she added. “We want to keep the same type of lifestyle and keep growing cotton.”