BUCKHORN CREEK - Franklin Graham of Graceville says his years of service as a U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces soldier gave him a greater appreciation for what many others take for granted: a simple drink of water.
It is Graham's memories of serving in locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Africa that led to his desire to begin a water bottling company in hopes of becoming a supplier of bottled water to U.S. troops.
"I just think about my time in service, and sometimes, you're in a place where there is simply nothing better than knowing the water you are drinking is safe and clean," said Graham. "Sometimes, that's all you have."
Graham was granted a land use designation change by the Washington County Planning Commission earlier this month to reclassify a five-acre tract located at 3312 Sally Road in Chipley's Buckhorn Creek community from Agriculture/Silviculture to Light Industrial as a precursor to his upstart company, tentatively called Buckhorn Creek Water.
"I like the name 'Buckhorn Creek Water' because it puts the community on the map, helps build it up and promote it," he said.
Graham, who is now awaiting the state to approve the change, will have to be in business for at least a year before he is eligible for U.S. Government contracts, states he would also like to partner with disaster relief agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. Additionally, he is in talks with Walmart stores to provide bottled water to stores in the area.
Some residents have voiced concerns regarding Graham's plans, specifically voicing the worry that the Buckhorn Creek area property cannot sustain the volume of production needed to keep up with proposed bottling contracts.
"My aim is to develop a community-based business," said Graham. "I can't control where the water is sent, but what I can control is what kind of business we operate. We will be community-minded and keep the operation small. We have no plans to do bulk water contracts now or in the future."
Graham says while he did give Washington County Commissioners a preliminary water usage figure of 60,000 gallons a month, there is "no real way" to predict how much will be used until the operation gets underway.
"It would be like getting the cart before the horse," he said. "I first need to get going before I can get the contracts, and then I have to see exactly what the contracts demand."
Graham states the company is estimated to create about five jobs.