Austal USA recently christened Littoral Combat Ship 20 (LCS 20), the future USS Cincinnati, with a ceremony at its North American ship manufacturing facility in Mobile. The Cincinnati is the tenth of 15 Independence-variant LCS Austal USA vessels under contract with the United States Navy for a combined value exceeding $4.5 billion, per a news release.

“The future USS Cincinnati will set another benchmark for cost, schedule, quality and capability for the LCS program thanks to the work of our shipbuilding team,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said. “We stand ready with capacity now to efficiently build the Navy our nation needs while being able to support an aggressive growth plan to a 355-ship fleet.”

This number is a goal President Donald Trump announced in December at a conference in San Diego, California, considerably more than the 276 active vessels currently in play and representing a 29 percent increase in the U.S. Navy’s collective footprint worldwide.

The Independence-variant LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, focused-mission surface combatant designed to conduct surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasure missions in the littoral region. With its open architecture design, the LCS can support modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to capture and sustain littoral maritime supremacy.

The ship’s sponsor, the Hon. Penny Pritzker — 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce — headlined the group of officials, naval guests, civic leaders, community members and Austal USA employees who attended the ceremony beneath the hull of the ship in Austal USA’s final assembly bay. 

“I wish the crew well as the Cincinnati becomes an integral part of the U.S. naval fleet protecting our nation,” Pritzker said.

Rear Adm. John P. Neagley of the U.S. Navy, program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants, also spoke at the event and was joined by Frederick J. Stefany III, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs; Vice Admiral Walter “Ted” Carter, U.S. Navy, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy; and the Hon. David Mann, council member and former U.S. congressman from Ohio, representing the city of Cincinnati at the event.

Austal has already delivered two LCS to the Navy this year and another five are under construction. LCS 18 is preparing for sea trials as LCS 20, 22, 24 and LCS 26 are following close behind. Additionally, Austal has two more LCS in a pre-construction phase, LCS 28 and LCS 30.

In addition to being in full rate production for the LCS program, Austal is also the Navy’s prime contractor for the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program. Austal has delivered nine EPF vessels and an additional three are in various stages of construction.

Headquartered in Mobile and with facilities in San Diego, Singapore and Washington, D.C., Austal USA employs upwards of 4,000 workers. The company’s supplier network includes more than 1,155 companies across 44 states supporting more than 34,000 U.S. jobs. The company entered the defense market in 2004 and has become the fifth largest shipbuilder nationwide.

Commercial real estate moves

 • A local-area investor recently purchased Brown’s Corner, a historic 16,380-square-foot retail property located at 2325 University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa, for $2.45 million. The building’s existing tenant, Glory Bound Gyro Co., is relocating and Half Shell Oyster House will occupy the space. Kennedy Striplin, sales and leasing executive with Stirling Properties, represented the buyer. Tracy Gatewood with Keller Williams Realty represented the seller in the transaction.

• Cameron Weavil, vice president with the Weavil Co., reported the sale of the 20,000-square-foot former Willygoat office/warehouse space, located at 8425 Bellingrath Road, for $655,000. Willygoat is an online store that sells playground equipment. The buyer is a local investor represented by Sheila Baggett with Agency One.

The local Willygoat store has relocated and signed a new lease inside a 10,000-square-foot office/warehouse space located at 861 Butler Drive per Weavil, who worked for the tenant in the transaction. The landlord was represented by Mike Mcaleer.

 • A local investor recently purchased the 3099 Loop Road Shopping Center, a 5,750-square-foot retail center situated in Orange Beach, for approximately $460,000. The center is fully leased and tenants include All Baldwin Cleaners, Buns in the Sun, Coastal Cottage Living Real Estate and enrG-IV Solutions. Andrew Dickman with Stirling Properties represented the buyer. Jill Meeks, also with Stirling, worked for the seller in the transaction.

• John M. Delchamps, associate broker with the Merrill P. Thomas Co. Inc., recently reported the lease of a 550-square-foot office space inside Skyline Centre Office Park, 3737 Government Blvd., to a digital broadcast company. Delchamps handled both sides of the transaction

Hargrove rises among engineering firms nationally

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors was recently ranked No. 70 on Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) 2018 Top 500 Design Firms list. The magazine’s annual rankings of national firms are based on design revenue for architecture, engineering and environmental firms.

Hargrove also advanced five spots in ENR magazine’s list of Top 20 U.S. Design Firms Supporting the Industrial Process/Petroleum industry, now at No. 15.

Founded in Mobile in 1995, Hargrove is recognized as one of the nation’s fastest-growing engineering firms. The company has more than 1,700 employees and 13 offices across the U.S.

Hargrove first submitted information for the ENR ranking in 2012 and placed No. 175 on the list. Since then, the company’s standing has steadily improved — initially to No. 135 in 2013, No. 115 in 2014, No. 90 in 2015, No. 76 in 2016 and No. 73 in 2017. The company has seen continuous growth over the years, resulting in gains both on the ENR list and in the market.

“Listening to our clients and understanding their needs as they relate to project drivers continue to be key factors in our success,” Ralph A. Hargrove, president and CEO of Hargrove Engineers + Constructors, said.

“Clients are increasingly interested in Hargrove’s EPC/EPCM execution capability because this approach consolidates effort, reduces schedule and delivers seamless implementation of projects. With a strong pipeline of EPCM projects, 2018 is shaping up to be another year of record growth for Hargrove,” he said.

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors is a full-service EPC, automation, life sciences and technical services firm. For more information about the company, visit its website.