Aerospace. Ship building. One of the nation’s largest seaports. A new downtown airport. Steelmaking. Those are just a few of the economic sectors that make Mobile County unique and successful when attracting new business and industry.
Even through a pandemic, the county has been very successful. According to the Alabama Department of Commerce’s 2021 report on New & Existing Industry, Mobile County was second only to Limestone County in the top counties for new investment in 2020. It was also listed among the top counties for job announcements, with 573 new jobs announced. So far in 2021, at least seven companies have announced expansions, meaning millions of investment dollars and hundreds of jobs created, according to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This has been one of the most active first quarters for projects announced in recent history,” says David Rodgers, the chamber’s vice president of economic development. “Many of these have been years in the making. People are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
It also takes teamwork. Team Mobile, a coalition of the city of Mobile, the county, the chamber, utilities, universities, airport and port officials and more, has worked together for many projects through the years with a goal of providing plenty of high-paying jobs. “It takes everyone to move things forward, and we are fortunate to all be able to work together well,” Rodgers says.
And there’s even more to the story. Mobile County is the second most populous county in the state, known for top ranked school systems, workforce programs, colleges and universities, including the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.
There is a concentrated effort to boost jobs across all sectors. For example, Development Counsellors International, a New York-based economic development marketing firm, completed its recommended strategies for the next phase of the chamber’s talent attraction program. In 2020, the Chamber focused efforts on “Get to Know Mobile,” a virtual event designed to bring local college students face-to-face with employers. Later, veterans also were able to join a virtual job fair.
Mobile County also has great quality of life, in a setting rich with history and culture, including the original Mardi Gras. The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is one of the most eco-diverse places in the world. Mobile is not only a major shipping area, but also the scene of much outdoor recreation.
“We’re a gateway to the Delta and it is one of the least-visited, but there is so much interest in it,” says Fred Rendfrey, director of economic development for the Downtown Mobile Alliance. “We have had eco-tourism companies locate here to expose more people to this unique area.”
The city of Mobile is in the midst of a major parks initiative, including the purchase of bayfront property for a new park. A blueway program is working to increase waterway access, and a greenway project aims to add walking trails.
The alliance also is working with the city on a street optimization plan that will add parking, convert one-way streets to two-way streets and other improvements to open up economic development.
This story appears in the June 2021 issue of Business Alabama magazine.