Author: Dale Liesch

SSAB to move Illinois headquarters to Mobile

A steel plate manufacturer with a mill in Alabama took cash incentives and tax abatements from the city, county and state governments to move its American headquarters from the Chicago suburbs to Mobile. The move means SSAB America will add 60 employees in Mobile to the 600 who work at the Axis plant, SSAB Executive Vice President Chuck Schmitt said during an announcement at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning. He gave no details on the new location for the headquarters yet and said the transition would occur throughout 2018. “This helps to ensure the senior leaders...

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Potential changes in city council leadership

Issues with communication between the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office could result in a new council president when leadership positions are voted on Monday, Nov. 6. Councilman John Williams initially complained about a lack of communication between the council and the mayor’s office. Williams wouldn’t declare who he would choose for the positions of council president and vice president, but suggested he would cast a vote for anyone who could fix the communication issues. “I think we need a different approach to the interaction from our offices and the mayor,” he said. “Whoever can convince me they can accomplish that will get my vote.” Williams said there has been no communication between the two sides and he’s “extremely worried” about it. Council Vice President Fred Richardson claimed Stimpson’s office has withheld information from him in the past. For example, he said he’s asked about the number of executive secretaries in Stimpson’s office and how much each is paid. He also referenced information about the parks and recreation department that he had not received. If Richardson were council president, he said, he’d use the council’s power to subpoena records from the administration to ensure members could get the information they requested. “I don’t think it’ll change until council puts its foot down,” Richardson said. Councilman Levon Manzie said communication needs to improve on both ends. Council President...

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New airport director Chris Curry ready for challenge

While training as an air traffic controller for the U.S. Air Force in Germany, Chris Curry had to help land 16 jets individually on a foggy day, as each was running out of fuel. The situation was made more complicated by the fact each of the jets was at an altitude between 7,000 and 23,000 feet. So managing a couple of local airports and the Metro Aeroplex at Brookley should be a piece of cake. The Mobile Airport Authority’s new executive director, Curry has been on the job a little more than a week but is already excited by the opportunities in the city. “I think this is the best job that I ever had,” he said. “And again, I did not come here with my eyes closed, but just the idea of the airport being able to provide such a significant benefit to the community is very exciting to me, and I think that we have that opportunity at this particular time.” One of those benefits in the future might be Mobile residents having access to more flights at a lower cost. Curry sees the possibility of having both the Mobile Regional Airport and the city’s downtown airport available for commercial service in the future. “Neither airport is going away,” he said. “It’s what is the best purpose for each airport to serve for the benefit of the...

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Mobile Housing Board hires Akinola Popoola as new director

After almost a year, the Mobile Housing Board will have a new executive director at the helm. Akinola Popoola was officially hired by the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners at its October meeting. The current director of Opelika’s housing authority will take over in Mobile on Dec. 1. “Well, that only took a year,” Commissioner Reid Cummings said. “I mean, by the start date.” Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway seemed to agree the hiring took longer than it should have. “There’s an issue with this board seeming to run in slow motion,” she said. The board’s hiring of Popoola brings to an end an unusual chain of events. In late June commissioners offered the job to George Lee Byars, with Cummings the only dissenting vote. However, they rescinded the offer to Byars in August and instead offered the job to Popoola, who had previously been rejected. The decision to change direction was apparently spurred by a vetting process in which Byars did not “pass muster,” Cummings said at the time. SERIES: MOBILE HOUSING BOARD In other business, the board voted to follow staff recommendations and move away from an occupancy plan based on future revitalization. Instead, the board’s staff will work to get all properties to maximum occupancy levels regardless of whether the development is slated for revitalization or transitioning into the rental assistance demonstration program. Additionally, board attorney Raymond Bell...

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Council debates downtown parking lot screening

The Mobile City Council voted Tuesday to add to the agenda an item sponsored by Councilman Levon Manzie that would delay enforcement of an ordinance requiring screening in downtown parking lots — a move that led to a debate about the importance of parking lot aesthetics. Parking lot owners within the Downtown Development District currently have until the end of next month to add fencing, shrubbery or other improvements to avoid fines from the city. During a pre-conference meeting Tuesday morning, Manzie said he’s heard a number of complaints about the impending deadline and asked councilors to add an...

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Airbus expanding Mobile production through Bombardier partnership

Airbus announced today an agreement with Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier to produce its C Series aircraft family, which according to a statement from the two companies will result in a second final assembly line in Mobile to serve American customers. “Airbus’ global industrial footprint will expand with the final assembly line in Canada and additional C Series production at Airbus’ manufacturing site in Alabama,” the statement reads. “This strengthening of the programme and global cooperation will have positive effects on Québec and Canadian aerospace operations.” There are few additional details about what the partnership means for Mobile, Airbus spokeswoman...

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City begins next phase of signal upgrades on Water Street

The City of Mobile is beginning the next step towards transforming Water Street from the backyard of downtown into the gateway of Mobile. Pending Council approval, the city will begin installation of new traffic signal controllers, a detection system, and pedestrian signal poles and signals. These traffic upgrades will create a more walkable corridor, as well as a more efficient traffic flow. Last month, the city began fiber optic work for the traffic signals in preparation for Water Street’s vehicular lane reduction. In August, the first phase of construction began including new sidewalks and new ADA curb ramps at...

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Officials mum on BayBears sale, move

Despite media reports of the Southern League’s approval of the sale of Mobile’s minor league baseball team, officials are remaining tight-lipped about the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. According to media reports out of the Huntsville area, the SL approved the sale of the BayBears to an investment company out of Phoenix called BallCorps, but league President Lori Webb could not confirm it. “The sale of the Mobile franchise is incomplete,” she said. “Until the sale process is complete, we will have no further comment.” She added that there was no timetable for the sale to be...

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