Meet Bobby Dobson, a 2023 graduate of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s Forest Business and Investment master’s degree program and the owner of Taproot Investments
A native of South Carolina, Bobby Dobson grew up on a farm raising thoroughbred horses and went to college intending to continue the family business. However, he found in college that he was more drawn to working with the land than livestock.
With this in mind, Dobson was inspired to earn a real estate license and became a broker, working with ranch real estate properties in Texas. Noticing an opportunity to restore properties his clients were passing over, Dobson formed Taproot Investments to purchase, improve and flip ranches.
Dobson credits his father-in-law, Phillip Hardee, a 1967 Auburn graduate, for his interest in timber. It resonated with his own background as well.
“He doesn’t believe in the stock market as much as he believes in things he can see and touch. And he’s always invested in timberland. I grew up in a family business that sees things through a long lens. Being able to be patient and seize opportunities when they arise spoke to me.”
Growing a vision
Dobson, center, with his wife, Caroleene, children and father and mother-in-law.
Dobson and his wife, Caroleene, moved to Alabama to be closer to her family when they learned they were expecting their first child, and Dobson enrolled in an MBA program soon after. He worked on his first timberland deal right before he graduated from that program but had to rely heavily on his partner’s knowledge of timber valuation.
“I intended for Taproot Investments to become a vertically integrated timber company, owning the land, the logging and manufacturing,” said Dobson. “To achieve this vision for the company, I needed a program rooted in both business and the forest industry.”
Dobson on a phone call at his home in Pine Apple, AL.
After graduating, Dobson worked with forest management company Larson and McGowan for a time, and a colleague there showed him an Auburn brochure.
Recognizing he had found a program suited to his goals, Dobson first enrolled in the Forest Finance and Investment graduate certificate program and then built upon this course credit to earn the Forest Business Investment (FBI) master’s degree.
“The flexibility that this program had really made a difference. It’s extremely customizable, and you can make it according to your needs. The key is finding the right pace, even though there might be tough times, but if I can get through it, I believe anyone can.”
Bobby Dobson and father-in-law, Phillip Hardee, reviewing land.
One of the key aspects of the program for Dobson was the convenience of the online format. He and his family live in a 19th-century farmhouse in Pine Apple, Ala., with their two young daughters. They both work from home offices, so flexibility was imperative.
“For anyone considering the program, I would say to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you have in terms of your course load and pacing. But you can make it into exactly what you want it to be.”
Empowering forestry professionals
Through specialized programs like the CFWE’s forest business and investment program, forestry professionals can acquire essential business expertise, enhancing their ability to navigate the landscape of the forest industry successfully.
Dobson’s goals when enrolling in the FBI program were to learn more about silviculture, modeling and valuing timberland growth. As someone without a forestry background, he found the program gave him the knowledge to kickstart his own forestry business.
“I got everything I wanted out of it and more,” Dobson said. “The FBI program has accelerated the growth and direction of my business.” His five to ten-year plan has become a right-now plan, and the program highlighted growth areas he wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
“By the end, I felt as well-prepared to go out and build my business as anybody else. I learned at least a little about every part of the industry and how it is all interconnected.”
Learn more about CFWE’s Forest Business Investment master’s degree program
Click here to learn more about the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s Forest Business Investment master’s degree program.
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(Written by Jessica Nelson, adapted by Allison Killingsworth)