Economic Engines


Economic developers recognize aviation/aerospace as a strong, growing industry sector with large employers like ST Aerospace Mobile Inc., Continental Motors and Airbus. The Mobile Aviation Center is strengthening the sector, providing an abundance of well-trained, well-educated employees.

Port of Mobile

Alabama’s deepwater seaport, the Port of Mobile is located just 32 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and handled over 52 million tons of cargo in 2009. The full service public seaport terminals are owned by the Alabama State Port Authority and are served by major ocean carriers transiting Asian, European, Mediterranean, and Latin American trade lanes. In 2011, the Port Authority will handle more than 26 million tons of containerized, general cargo, dry and liquid bulk, frozen poultry, and oversized and heavy lift cargo freight.

The port authority generates 66, 617 direct and indirect jobs and $263 million in direct and indirect tax impact for a total economic impact of $7.9 billion.

The Alabama State Port Authority recently completed a 10-year, $700 million capital expansion program that established new facilities at the Port of Mobile, including a new container terminal, a new steel terminal, an expansion and enhancement program at McDuffie coal terminal, a new rail ferry terminal and a new turning basin.

In 2010, the authority’s board of directors approved a $356 million capital program that will, over the next three to five years,  establish an intermodal rail facility, new warehouses and terminals, and rail improvements. This program is expected to generate $800 million in consumption/local impacts, 12, 500 direct/indirect jobs and $70.1 million in tax impacts.

- Sponsor -


Thanks to the Alabama State Docks and Mobile’s strategic location on the Gulf Coast, the largest industry in Mobile County is the shipbuilding/repair sector with an estimated 3, 700 employees. Two of the counties’ top four manufacturers—Austal USA and BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards—are in shipbuilding. Austal is the largest manufacturer with 2, 300 employees and growing. In December 2010, Austal won a $3.8 billion contract to build 10 warships for the U.S. Navy. The company promised to double its workforce, which at the time numbered around 1, 800. BAE currently has around 800 employees.

Nearly every type of service for the maritime industry can be found in Mobile. Those include barge fleeting service, container repair and leasing, dunnage services, freight forwarding, guard service and ship watching, heavy lift and salvage, industrial diving, line handling, marine fumigation services, waste disposal, ship chandlers, stevedoring and towing.


The chemical industry in Mobile County has around 3, 000 employees and is one of the region’s largest industry sectors. Evonik Degussa Corp., with a history of more than 30 years in Mobile, is the largest chemical company with over 600 employees. It is followed by UOP, BASF Corp., DuPont Agricultural Products, Mitsubishi Polysilicon, Arkema Inc. and Akzo Nobel. All of these companies have at least 100 employees.


ThyssenKrupp Steel and Stainless USA, LLC has nearly 2, 000 employees. The company, which announced it would locate in Calvert in 2007, already has made a huge impact on the area. According to company information, 80 percent of employees were recruited from Alabama, $100 million in wages have been paid to workers from 2007 to 2010, and $35 million in project-related wages have been paid by companies employed by ThyssenKrupp in the peak month of construction, with about 9, 000 construction jobs created.

Additionally, $800 million has been directly spent by ThyssenKrupp with Alabama companies, and the company has generated $34 million in state tax revenue from 2007-2010, $2 million in tax revenue for the city of Mobile and $3 million in taxes for Mobile County.

ThyssenKrupp has led other steel companies to locate, renovate and add jobs to this sector.

University of South Alabama

USA employs more than 5, 500 and has an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion. USA generates $7 for every dollar in state appropriations. The university is among the leading employers in Mobile and Baldwin counties, with an annual payroll of $404 million, the largest in the region.

USA’s construction and renovation projects over the last decade totaled nearly $500 million, a substantial investment in the community and in the future growth of the campus. 

A major economic development initiative of the university, the USA Technology and Research Park was launched in April 2002 with the assistance and support of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Now home to 16 companies and more than 600 employees, the park is a leading source of economic growth for the Gulf Coast with a focus on information technology, engineering and biomedicine. Together with its partners in industry, USA is keeping highly skilled workers in Mobile and contributing to the local economy. 

Its external funding for research in fiscal 2011 topped $52.8 million.

Health Care

Health care is an important economic sector in the county, with nearly 10 percent of Mobile’s workforce employed in this industry. There are more than 850 physicians and 175 dentists practicing in the area, many affiliated with one or more of nine hospitals and the 2, 800 hospital beds in the region.

The USA Health System carries a huge economic impact. The USA Medical Center and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital serve more than 250, 000 citizens every year. The USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, a strategic health care alliance between the University of South Alabama and Infirmary Health, is expected to have a $1 billion economic impact on the Mobile Bay region over the next decade. It is the only Stage II and III cancer center between Houston, Texas and Tampa, Fla.

The total economic impact of Infirmary Health on the local economy is an estimated $1.3 billion. The total number of jobs created in Alabama as a result of Infirmary Health is 10, 274. Total payroll in FY 2010-11 was $265 million. And, the estimated labor income generated by Infirmary Health is $440 million.

Largest Manufacturing Employers

Source: Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
 1. Austal USA Shipbuilding Mobile 2, 100 employees
2. ThyssenKrupp Steel and Stainless Steel Mobile 1, 950 employees
3. ST Aerospace Mobile Aviation refurbishing Mobile 1, 500 employees
4. BAE Systems Southwest Shipyards Shipbuilding Mobile 800 employees
5. Evonik Degussa Chemicals Mobile 644 employees
6. Kimberly Clark Corp. Paper products Mobile 600 employees
7. SSAB Americas Steel Mobile 475 employees
8. BASF Corp. Chemicals Mobile 430 employees
9. Continental Motors Aircraft piston engines Mobile 410 employees
10. UOP, LLC Chemicals Mobile 330 employees


By Lori Chandler Pruitt

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox