DRA - Alabama - G Momma’s Cookies - Winter 2016

Sweet success in Selma, Alabama

By Trisha Ostrowski

The recipe and inspiration behind his cookies is Robert Armstrong’s grandmother, the late Anice “Gammy Momma” Armstrong. A true woman of the Deep South, G Momma knew that family, lots of love, and real “budda” could do as much for your soul as it could your stomach.

Robert Armstrong made a promise to his grandmother. He told her one day he’d make a business out of the mouthwatering cookies she made, so others could marvel at them, too. His grandmother laughed at the idea, but Armstrong has worked hard to make that promise come true. Now G Momma’s Cookies are not only being enjoyed by people across the country, but they are part of an economic upturn in Armstrong’s hometown of Selma, Ala.


What started as a way to honor his “Gammy Momma” (Anice Armstrong) turned into Selma Good Co., a rapidly growing manufacturer that has exploded from products in 35 local stores to more than 1,500 nationwide over the past few years. Armstrong’s biggest retailers now include Cracker Barrel and Walmart, and his cookies have garnered rave reviews in publications like Southern Living.


The success of his little “bite-size cookies” has as much to do with entrepreneurial support as it does with the quality ingredients he uses — no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup. Armstrong’s “small batch” cookies come in two flavors — “BuddaScotch” Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Pecan, all produced in Selma. “Gammy knew real ‘budda’ could do as much for your soul as it could your stomach,” he said.


And operating his company from the Black Belt city of Selma, Ala., has been a key to the company’s growth. “I’ve always loved my hometown and have had a passion to see it revived,” Armstrong said. “I see the potential for this area, and I want to be part of the solution.”


Recipe for growth

Robert Armstrong, founder of G Momma’s Cookies, launched his fast-growing company in Selma, Ala. He’s on a mission to transform his hometown. Armstrong credits much of his success to the support he has found in the Selma community. “People in this area are mostly in small towns, and being in a small town is like a big family. I don’t think I’d be where I am if it weren’t for the people here supporting me as I got started,” he said.

Leading the way in creating that solution is the Delta Regional Authority. DRA is dedicated to “creating jobs, building communities, and improving the lives” of the nearly 10 million people living in the region it serves — Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.


Through targeted investments in these states, DRA has helped create and retain more than 42,000 jobs since its creation in 2000. The agency supports Delta-based infrastructure and industrial development, as well as helping to advance business incubators, job training and workforce development. The result has consistently been an increase in this region in opportunities for high-skill, high-paying jobs, as well as a growing number of companies looking to call the Delta home.


“DRA has been great to us,” said Armstrong. “They provide resources and opportunities to learn. They’re also helping other organizations in our area be more effective in their mission to bring about economic change.”


That economic change has led Armstrong to maintain his operation in Selma, rather than seek out a larger-scale industrial bakery to handle production. “Other than being the best cookie you’ll put in your mouth, we are on a mission to help transform our town by providing jobs as well as encouraging others to step out and start their own businesses here,” he said.


DRA is all about supporting the entrepreneurial efforts of people like Armstrong. In October, he was named one of three winners of the organization’s third regional pitch competition. Sponsored by DRA’s Delta Entrepreneurship Network, the competition featured entrepreneurs from across the Alabama Black Belt region pitching ideas for the chance to receive a fellowship, which includes technical assistance workshops that support their business development and the opportunity to showcase their ideas to investors at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.


“We are excited to see the Delta Entrepreneurship Network (DEN) grow so much in one year,” said DRA Chairman Chris Masingill. “I’m proud that through the DEN, the DRA can connect entrepreneurs to the organizations, mentors, and investors that will help them achieve success.”


A total of 22 entrepreneurs received fellowships.


Investing in Alabama

Because DRA is not only focused on entrepreneurship, but the bigger goal of “improving the lives” of the people in their region, it is focused on strategic investment that will bring excellent return. To that end, DRA and its partners are investing more than $11.5 million in this region to support small business, workforce training and job creation throughout what is known as Alabama’s “Black Belt” region, which gained its name from the dark, rich topsoil throughout the area.


The investment will fund nine distinct projects, which are projected to create and retain more than 1,000 jobs and develop 180 entrepreneurs and business owners.


“Alabama’s partnership with the Delta Regional Authority is important to the citizens of the Black Belt Region,” said Governor Robert Bentley.


These federal investments require a minimal amount of state funding as well. The result is a large return on investment by way of dramatic economic impact for the region involved.


“This DRA funding will play an integral part in helping with important improvements and increasing opportunities for economic growth in Alabama,” Governor Bentley said.


The projects include funding the establishment of seven business development centers for University of Alabama’s Entrepreneur Research Network, as well as expanding resources to 12 more centers. In addition, many infrastructure, workforce training and utilities issues are being addressed. It is exactly the kind of investment DRA has done from the beginning.


Masingill has worked hard to support growth throughout the region. The result has been that DRA has been able to leverage $14 million in federal funding into $51.5 billion in private and public sectors in Alabama alone.


In addition, it has helped to increase the quality of the region’s workforce. DRA’s “Re-imagining the Delta Workforce” is a comprehensive, strategic workforce development initiative that provides wide-ranging programs and services — all aimed at making the Delta’s workers and entrepreneurs ready for the corporate landscape of the future.


Improving lives

“The Delta Regional Authority has been a strong partner in our efforts to improve Alabama communities and provide economic development opportunities,” said Jim Byard Jr., director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. “These projects are destined to create a positive impact for years to come.”


One recent “positive impact” project was last year’s announcement of funding for the cities of Selma and Camden. The Selma Interpretive Center, which is managed by the National Park Service, was given the final $150,000 needed to complete its $1.65 million renovation project, helping finish a space that will house educational programming and exhibits. Funding the project is viewed as a catalyst for economic growth in the city.


“The Alabama Black Belt has one of the richest cultural and civil rights histories in this country,” said Masingill. “These investments will help the region grow its economic development and tourism by attracting businesses and tourists alike to invest in this region and learn from its history.”


DRA’s investment of $250,000 in the City of Camden will improve some water issues, providing a safer, cleaner environment for local residents, businesses and tourists.


It is the kind of investment DRA has been doing all along. They remain focused on the mission of “creating jobs, building communities and improving lives” by funding those projects and people who can most substantially impact this region.


To that end, DRA created the Delta Leadership Network (DLN). Since 2005, they have provided educational experiences to help leaders develop their skills and create solutions to their region’s challenges. Recently, 39 DLN members attended an exclusive training opportunity with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The program was designed and led by Harvard faculty, focusing on cultivating “authentic leadership.”


“Our partnership with Harvard Kennedy School empowers these community leaders to continue the regional collaboration, citizen-focused leadership, and place-based decision making that are cornerstones of the Delta Leadership Institute,” Masingill said.


Supporting leadership, developing entrepreneurs and funding infrastructure improvements are the foundation of Delta Regional Authority. It is about more than money — they are on a mission to build an environment that improves the lives of everyone in this region.


For people like Robert Armstrong, whose little cookie company has become big news, that support tastes very sweet. 

latest magazine issue
randle report
auto corridor

Southern Business & Development
8086 Westchester Place
Montgomery AL 36117