Spotlight on Mobile County: Economic Engines

Aerospace, aviation, chemicals, health care, logistics and more make up Mobile's economy

The RSA Tower dominates the Mobile skyline, rising above downtown, the port and shipbuilder Austal USA.

Aerospace and Aviation

Mobile is a leader in attracting aerospace investment from companies around the globe. Aerospace is Mobile’s fastest-growing industry sector with Airbus, ST Aerospace and Continental Aerospace Technologies headlining the sector. Additional major players are AAA United States, Aerostar, MAAS Aviation and REEL USA, plus two more players — Collins Aerospace and Segers Aero Corp. — just across the bay in neighboring Baldwin County.

In addition, the Mobile Airport Authority, along with city, state and federal partners, is in the process of relocating passenger air services from Mobile Regional Airport to the Mobile International Airport, situated adjacent to the port and just a stone’s throw from downtown. City and airport officials hope the new, more convenient location will lead to more passengers, more airlines and lower prices.

Port of Mobile

The Port of Mobile encompasses 3,600 acres, generating 312,896 jobs and contributing $85 billion annually in economic value to Alabama. The deepwater port — even now in the midst of further deepening — offers connections to railroads, air, truck and barge.

In January 2023, the Alabama Port Authority announced record container shipping numbers for 2022: 563,191 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) were handled. The numbers reflect nine years for the Port of Mobile’s double-digit growth since 2009.

Virtually every conceivable service for the maritime industry can be found in the Mobile area, with services including barge fleeting, container repair and leasing, freight forwarding, heavy lift and salvage, ship chandlers, stevedoring, towing and many more.

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Chemicals and Metals

The Alabama Gulf Coast chemical corridor is home to world-class chemical companies stretching 60 miles, mostly along the county’s rivers. Mobile has also seen steady growth in metal manufacturing since 2007, and some of the biggest players in steel and specialty pipes have found success and continue to invest in Mobile.

Notable employers in the chemical industry are Evonik, Olin Corp., BASF, Lenzing, Arkema, Honeywell UOP, AMVAC Chemical Corp., Harcros Chemicals Inc., Nouryon, FMC Corp., Mitsubishi Polysilicon and Kemira. Top metals firms are Outokumpu, AM/NS Calvert, SSAB, Berg Pipe, ELG Metals and Ryerson.

A tiny newborn gets extra special care at Infirmary Health.

Health care

Nearly 15% of Mobile’s workforce is employed in the health care sector. The Mobile area is home to five major hospitals with more than 1,900 beds. Area hospitals include general facilities, a children’s and women’s hospital, a private mental health hospital and a rehabilitation hospital.

Mobile is also home to a cancer center — Mitchell Cancer Institute — that combines research and treatment facilities. It is affiliated with the University of South Alabama Health System.

With 6,500 employees and more than 700 physicians, Infirmary Health is the largest health care system of its kind in Alabama. In addition to its flagship, Mobile Infirmary, other locations include North Baldwin County Infirmary in Bay Minette, Infirmary Long Term Acute Care Hospital in Mobile, Colony Rehabilitation Hospital in Fairhope, Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, J.L. Bedsole/Rotary Rehabilitation Hospital in Mobile and Infirmary Medical Plaza in Saraland.

Other healthcare providers in Mobile County include USA Health, Springhill Medical Center, Ascension Providence and AltaPointe Health Systems. In April, USA Health announced plans to acquire Ascension Providence.

Logistics and Transportation

Mobile’s extensive transportation infrastructure keeps businesses on the move. Major rail, waterway and highway systems converge at the Port of Mobile to link businesses with the nation and the world.

Logistics giants continue to perform well in Mobile County. Among the largest are the 2.5 million-square-foot Walmart Distribution Center and the 362,000-square-foot Amazon Sortation Center. Amazon’s Mobile County location was the first in Alabama.

Other key players in local logistics are the Alabama Port Authority, APM Terminals, BendPak, CORE Industries, Lineage, Meador Warehousing and Distribution, Merchants Transfer Co., Mississippi Export Railroad Co., Norton Lilly International, Page and Jones, Ray-Mont Logistics, Seabulk Towing and The Cooper Group Inc.

Oil and Gas

Nearly 10% of the U.S.’s refining capacity transfers through Mobile, providing the area with more than 2,000 local businesses servicing the oil and gas industry. Notable employers are Aker Solutions, Chart Industries, Chevron, Linde and Vertex Energy.

Business Briefs:

DECEMBER 2022: Great Southern Wood Preserving plans a $13.7 million expansion of its wood treatment facility in Mobile County.

AUGUST 2022: Canfor Southern Pine plans to replace its current Mobile facility with a new sawmill in Axis in northern Mobile County, capable of producing 250 million board feet per year.

AUGUST 2022: Topgolf, a leading golf entertainment venue with more than 70 locations, announces plans to build a multi-story complex at McGowin Park. The Mobile location is slated to open in late 2023.

MAY 2022:  Airbus Americas announces plans to expand its current facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, adding a third Final Assembly Line and about 1,000 new jobs.

MAY 2022: APM Terminals plans to expand its dock operations at the Port of Mobile, adding two more ship-to-shore cranes.

APRIL 2022: DC Safety, a first-aid kit manufacturer for the automotive market, is relocating its manufacturing operations from upstate New York to Mobile, where it will be the first tenant of the 1,300-acre South Alabama Logistics Park.

APRIL 2022: Averitt Express is moving from its existing facility on Rangeline Road to the new South Alabama Logistics Park.

APRIL 2022: Austal USA opens its steel manufacturing facility, a $100 million investment that created a 117,000-square-foot workspace. Two months later the company announced a $3.3 billion multi-ship contract to build patrol cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard.

OCTOBER 2021: MTC Logistics cuts the ribbon on its $61 million cold storage facility, which offers 12.6 million cubic feet of refrigerated space between the Port of Mobile and Brookley Aeroplex.

APRIL 2021: Plans are announced for a 1,300-acre South Alabama Logistics Park, with an expected capital investment of $109 million. The park property lies along Interstate 10, close to the Aeroplex and Port facilities.

APRIL 2021: Swedish steel maker SSAB moves its U.S. headquarters from the Chicago area to Mobile, where it has a major steel plant at Axis, a few miles north of the city on the Mobile River.

This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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