Aerospace and Aviation
The Mobile Airport Authority owns and operates Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), Mobile Downtown Airport (BFM), and the Brookley Aeroplex, generating $1.8 billion in economic value for Alabama.
Delta Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines serve the Mobile Regional Airport, providing direct service to four major hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte and Houston. MOB is also home to Airbus Space and Defense.
The bigger Airbus operation, assembling commercial jet planes, takes place at the Brookley complex. In December 2020, Airbus announced it had delivered the 200th A320-family jetliner assembled in Mobile. In October 2020, it announced it had delivered its first Mobile-made A220 aircraft.
BFM is located next to the Port of Mobile. The unparalleled geographical location supports the authority’s multimodal ability to bring maritime, rail, trucking and aviation together in one location. BFM also serves as home to Airbus Engineering, VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering, Continental Aerospace and about 90 other businesses.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved a 20-year, $403 million airport master plan that paves the way to develop a new international terminal at the Mobile Downtown Airport and move commercial air service there, among other improvements.
Port of Mobile
Alabama’s only seaport at Mobile is one of the nation’s largest full-service seaports by total volume. The port is comprised of public and private cargo terminals, a cruise terminal and shipyards. The Alabama State Port Authority owns or operates the public cargo terminals handling commodities that support business and industry across Alabama’s 67 counties.
Today, Alabama exports coal, lumber, plywood, wood pulp, oriented strand board, laminate, flooring, roll and cut paper, steel, frozen poultry, peanuts, cotton, grain and chemicals. The Port Authority also handles imports of raw materials such as thermal coal, consumer goods, automotive and aviation components, wind energy components, iron and steel, lumber, wood pulp and frozen fish.
In June, the Port Authority and its concessionaire, AutoMobile International Terminal, cut the ribbon on a new roll-on roll-off, or RO-RO, terminal that provides regional automotive manufacturers and retailers with a gateway for finished automobiles, trucks and similar rolling stock.
In April, a new international distribution center for refrigerated cargo began receiving product. The MTC Logistics facility represents the largest application of mobile racking technology in North America. This facility has approximately 40,000 racked pallet positions, of which 38,000 are mobile racking technology. The mobile racking systems provides high density storage and direct pallet access to generate operational efficiencies and capacity for both import and export cold cargo shippers.
In June, the U.S.-Mexico rail ferry service, operated by CG Railway, will take delivery on a new ship that increases the number of fully laden rail cars that can be shipped at once between the ports of Mobile and Coatzacoalcos in the Veracruz region of Mexico. This unique service provides shippers with four-day sail times direct into Mexico, bypassing delays and inefficiencies associated with traditional U.S.-Mexico border crossings.
Port officials regard ship channel deepening and widening as the real game changer for the port. The $369 million project is fully funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Rebuild Alabama Act. Construction starts in June and should be complete in 2025. The project will deepen the seaport channel from 45 to 50 feet, to accommodate the larger ships transiting today’s trade lanes. The project also includes a channel widener to allow larger ships to safely pass each other, eliminating delays at the berth or at the sea buoy. These channel improvements provide Alabama and regional shippers access to more efficient vessels that carry more cargo. That capacity provides shippers with reduced costs associated with those economies of scale.
John Driscoll was named director and CEO for the Port Authority in June 2020. He worked most recently as maritime director at the Port of Oakland in California.
Austal USA is the largest local shipbuilder and the largest manufacturing employer, with 4,000 employees. The company has U.S. Navy contracts and builds Littoral Combat Ships and Expeditionary Fast Transport Ships. Earlier this year, Austal broke ground on its new steel shipbuilding facility, a $100 million project co-funded by the federal government. It will provide additional capacity alongside the existing aluminum construction operations to help the company fulfill an existing demand for steel vessels for the military. Austal also recently purchased a floating dry dock, covered repair facilities and other waterfront properties.
Mobile is also home to several other companies that build or repair commercial ships, barges, tugboats, work boats and other marine vessels.
There are several companies that provide steel for industrial and commercial uses, and AM/NS Calvert, Outokumpu Stainless and SSAB Americas are three of the largest manufacturing employers. AM/NS Calvert recently launched a $775 million project to build a new steelmaking facility, to create more than 200 jobs, and Outokumpu Stainless and other steel fabrication companies such as Myer Marine Services also have had expansions.
SSAB Americas recently invested up to $100 million for an expansion of its steelmaking capabilities.
At least two chemical companies are listed among the county’s largest manufacturing employers — Evonik Industries and Olin Corp. — but there are many more chemical companies in this growing sector.
Incoa Performance Minerals is locating to Mobile, investing $110.85 million and planning to hire 74 employees over the next five years. Incoa sells high-quality calcium carbonate that is used to make products from antacids to paint.
This sector has grown rapidly, with several now projects that are expected to promote growth for years to come.
Newest to open is the MTC Logistics facility, an international distribution center for refrigerated cargo.
A master-planned, 1,300-acre industrial park, South Alabama Logistics Park, was announced in April. It’s expected to be the largest in the state and one of the largest in the Southeast.
Ray-Mont Logistics, one of Canada’s largest international logistics companies, will launch phase one of a high-tech logistics park in Mobile. The $19 million investment is in partnership with Alabama Export Railroad and Canadian National. It is expected to increase outbound traffic at the Port of Mobile and add about 50 jobs.
Mobile enjoys a diverse economy — and that is a huge plus whether the economy is booming or not. “We are diversified, so when one sector takes a hit, other sectors help make it up,” says David Rodgers, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. That diversity is boosted by a regional effort to meet the needs of industry, provide a trained workforce and ensure more jobs, he says.
Some of those diverse manufacturing sectors include oil and gas and paper products, vehicle service equipment and food production.
This is a large sector, representing 13% of the county’s workforce. It continues to grow, providing convenient health services to more people. Mobile also is home to the College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama.
Hospitals are among the county’s largest employers. For example, Infirmary Health, the largest non-governmental, not-for-profit healthcare system in Alabama, has several facilities across the Gulf Coast region. With Mobile Infirmary as its flagship, it has four acute care hospitals, two post-acute care facilities, two freestanding ERs, more than 60 medical clinics and three ambulatory surgery centers. It employs more than 6,000 people and it is the largest private employer in the region. Its economic impact surpasses $1.5 billion and generates more than $512 million in labor income, directly and indirectly. The system also has invested more than $355 million in capital over the last 10 years.
USA Health and USA College of Medicine employ 4,474 with more than 25 locations spanning Mobile and Baldwin counties, including two hospitals, an academic cancer institute, multi-specialty physician practices and a college of medicine. Its annual economic impact is $1.15 billion.
Ascension Providence — its hospital and physician network — employs 2,300 people in the Mobile area. Springhill Medical Center employs 1,200.