A Decade of ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Looking Back
The Business View – September 2018 / News You Can Use
Editor’s note: As we planned this issue of The Business View, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the economic development announcements made over the last decade, locating them on a map of Mobile County.
Take a quick walk down memory lane remembering some of our biggest victories, and some lesser known stories we found as we culled through our records.
Over the last decade, you’ve heard about nearly 100 Chamber-recruited projects, be it a new company or industry expansion. With their news, collectively came 14,386 direct jobs and $8.1 billion in capital investments.
Along the way, the success stories came from names we recognize and a few we learned quickly.
For example, in 2007, ThyssenKrupp’s historic $3.7 billion investment for a new, state-of-the-art steel mill in north Mobile County (now owned by AM/NS Calvert and Outokumpu) was at the time, lauded as the largest private investment made in the U.S. Since purchasing the steel operations, AM/NS has made $118 million in capital investments to expand the facility. Jointly, AM/NS and Outokumpu employ 2,455 people.
Austal USA expanded four times over the last 10 years, adding 3,700 jobs. In addition to the current 4,300- plus employees and multiple capital spending outlays, there is tremendous pride in saying U.S. Navy warships are made in Mobile.
The Kimberly-Clark investment in 2010 was labeled one of the area’s first major retention projects – meaning the $50 million investment secured the mill’s future. The company made two additional key announcements, one in 2017 and another this April – sure signs the Mobile facility is a strong asset to KC’s future.
And in the middle of a hard-fought battle to win a U.S. Air Force Tanker Refueling Aircraft contract, the Airbus Engineering Center was announced in 2010, creating 200 engineering jobs. As many remember, Mobile and Airbus eventually lost the project and got what some say was the “better end of the deal” when Airbus opened its Final Assembly Line for commercial aircraft.
The company’s footprint and number of employees are expected to double with the recent acquisition of a majority stake in Bombardier’s C Series aircraft. What was surprising was the number of companies that made multiple announcements – including undersea umbilical manufacturer Aker Solutions and Evonik’s effort creating a park where companies can feed off the byproducts each creates.
In 2014, the technology industry achieved a major coup when the software development company Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI) committed to create 100 high-tech jobs in downtown Mobile. The company helped start the development of the “technology corridor” and resides in the renovated Buick building on St. Louis Street.
Following its purchase of Mobile-based Scotch Gulf Lumber, Canadian-based Canfor Southern Pine moved its headquarters to Mobile in 2016, spurring the first of several headquarters announcements such as SSAB’s commitment to move its American home office to complement its steel mill in Axis.
Last year, Continental Motors, an aircraft engine company here since the 1960s, recommitted to Mobile as its global headquarters and announced it would build a new facility at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. Two days later, Walmart announced it would build direct import distribution center to serve its other distribution centers along the central Gulf Coast – only five others existed previously. In early summer, Amazon’s sortation center announcement upped our “coolness” factor among younger generations who grew up with the online retailer.
Also on the list are Mobile-based companies like AeroStar, Myer Marine and Prism Systems that could operate almost anywhere but choose Mobile as home.
As you look at the map and the list of new and expanding projects, the variety and scope help diversify the local economy, which equals strength for the long haul.
As Bill Sisson, the Mobile Area Chamber’s president & CEO, said in a 2018 video, “We can’t wait to show you what’s next.”
About the Mobile Chamber
The Mobile Chamber is a private business organization with more than 1,700 members and the economic developer for the City of Mobile and Mobile County. The Mobile Chamber’s focus is to provide members with networking, marketing and professional development opportunities, expand jobs in the area, develop the local workforce, advocate legislative priorities and offer resources to help small businesses grow. Additional information is on the Chamber’s website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.