More than 10 years ago, I began hearing that a well-known outdoor retailer might be coming to Bibb County. But I had no name and no location.
Then, as the weeks went by, I heard it might be Bass Pro Shops. So with a possible name, I began searching everywhere I could on the internet for any mention of Bass Pro and Macon or Bibb County. Business officials here wouldn’t confirm anything.
I called Bass Pro Shops’ headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, but all I got was that the company did not have Macon on its new store list, and that the company didn’t discuss possible locations until they were finalized.
Rumors continued, and every week or so I would check the internet, ask officials and call the company’s representatives. No information, no comment. One source told me off the record that a few people with “Bass Pro Shops” embroidered on their shirts were having dinner with local officials. Lots of folks were chatting about the company.
By this time, I pretty much knew Bass Pro was coming to town, but I couldn’t get anyone to confirm it. Officials in the know had signed confidentially agreements, and their lips were sealed. The company’s spokesman still wasn’t talking.
Without confirmation from a reliable source, I couldn’t write anything.
Then I got a call from a good source telling me that he’d just received his new Bass Pro Shops catalog. Macon was listed in the back as a store location.
It turns out the Macon store was listed because the catalog had to be put together in advance, but because of construction delays after the company switched the location of the retail store and a distribution center, the company hadn’t officially announced the new store.
I called the Bass Pro headquarters and when I told the spokesman about the catalog, he paused for a few seconds, then said “what do you want to know?” I got the story — from a reliable source — before any other news organization that the company was building a retail store and the company’s only distribution center outside its headquarters. The facilities would be built on property owned by Fickling & Co., ironically off Bass Road.
I got the story Jan. 12, 2005, two days before the official announcement by then Gov. Sonny Perdue and company founder Johnny Morris (no relation to this writer).
More recently, a company began clearing land in early 2016 in the I-75 Business Park off Hartley Bridge Road in south Bibb County. I knew from covering Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority meetings that it was working with a company for the site but, again, they were not allowed to talk about it publicly.
Rumors began to swirl about what was coming. I heard from a couple of sources that it was Federal Express; someone else said it was United Parcel Service. Doing some research, I learned that the construction company had built several buildings for FedEx and I narrowed my search. I contacted the company and its public relations firm, but no one responded to my phone calls and emails.
Some folks, who said they “knew” FedEx was coming, asked why I didn’t write about it, but they weren’t an official source and wouldn’t go on the record.
In early October last year, I contacted the company again. This time I got a response confirming that the company was building a 248,000-square-foot distribution center on the site. Local officials were still sworn to secrecy. One of them asked me later how I got the company to talk to me.
Sometimes confirming a rumor or tip comes down to determination and perseverance. And it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely — even if you have to ask nicely over and over again.