Mike on America

Ice, Ice Baby--All The Way To the Bank!

Can you make a million dollars selling bags of ice? Yup. Just ask Bob Alligood of Moultrie Georgia. Try tens of millions.

Alligood is from Moultrie, but made his fortune elsewhere. He left the one time agricultural hub of south Georgia--tobacco--when he graduated from high school. There were 6,000 people in Moultrie back in the 50's. There are 14,000 or so now. 130 of them showed up at the last Alligood family reunion.

Bob started, ran, and sold a number of businesses in his adopted home of 40 years, Jacksonville, Florida. One day three years ago he got a call from a cousin in Moultrie. 'Bob, come on up here and take a look at this ice contraption these two old boys have come up with. If you like it, maybe you can buy one, and I'll run it for you.'

Ice House America

Alligood went home, took a look at what two of Moultrie's most inventive fellas had come up with, and decided not to buy one. Instead, he bought the whole company. Except there wasn't much of a company, yet. There is now. It's called 'Ice House America'', employs nearly 100 people in Moultrie, and is housed in an old beer can factory. And they are selling like, well, selling like ice in Arizona in August.

What 'they' are is an ice dispenser the likes of which you haven't seen before. It takes up about 200 square feet, about the size of large storage shed, sits in a parking lot next to a convenience store or gas station, and continually makes ice. And because it's always 'fresh'--it doesn't freeze together. You put a buck and a quarter into the thing and out comes a 16 pound bag of fresh ice, or 20 pounds in bulk--dumps right into your cooler.

It's a patented delivery system that has turned into a money maker everywhere it's been set up. A bit of a 'real estate play'---meaning location, location, location--it's fun to just sit there and watch people use it. American flag waving on top--penguin painted on the side.

American ingenuity at it's best.

Alligood sells the 'houses' to dealers around the country, and the dealers sell them to individual

Ice House America

entrepreneurs. Takes about $100,000 to get up and running, and on average they make between 90 and $110,000 per year. There are some operators clearing well over a million dollars per annum with multiple machines.

The ice business is a fractured, regional, market--so the barriers to entry are pretty low, with sizeable profit potential. But this story is as much about a man 'going home' as it is about making ice. Bob Alligood could have built his manufacturing facility anywhere, and he took heat from friends in Florida (where he used to head up the Economic Development Council) for not bringing it there.

But no matter where you go, home is always home. Moultrie is where Bob Alligood is from. And now, it's a real 'cool' place.

I'm in Nashville the rest of the week for the largest country music festival in the nation, and then in the mountains of Colorado next.

I'll see you along the road.Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com