More than 200 professionals attended the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach 2016 Tourism Summit sponsored by the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). According to a recent news release, attendees heard that in 2015 Baldwin County served 6.1 million guests from all corners of the globe who spent roughly $3.9 billion in travel-related expenditures — in turn supporting 48,243 travel-related jobs in the area and generating $1.3 billion in wages and salaries.

In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach alone, taxable lodging revenue was up 13.6 percent from 2014 at $432 million, and taxable retail sales were up 8.8 percent at $791 million.

“Through March of this year, lodging is up 17.4 percent and retail sales are up 9.5 percent,” Herb Malone, president and CEO of the CVB, said. “As we enter peak season, we commend our beach cities and tourism industry partners on helping us tell our destination’s story year after year.”

Malone identified the numerous tourism businesses populating the island, including six hotels and two condominiums under construction, adding 562 units and 205,000 room nights to the current inventory.

Additionally, Malone discussed the Gulf State Park enhancement project, major event contracts and the Leave Only Footprints campaign.

“The goal of the Gulf State Park project is to enhance the area’s natural environment while making our destination nationally if not internationally known,” Malone said. “On another sustainable tourism note, Leave Only Footprints went surprisingly well in the spring. I want to congratulate our cities on how they handled spring break for the safety of the students who were here and all those around them.”

Regarding major event contracts, the inaugural NCAA National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship held May 6-8 was well received as millions caught a glimpse of Alabama’s beach destination on live national television. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission’s contract with the NCAA extends through the 2017 championship.

Another key event this year is the World Food Championships Nov. 8-15 at The Wharf in Orange Beach, where more than 1,110 competitors on more than 340 teams from around the world will compete in various categories for a chance at winning a share of $350,000.

Kay Maghan, CVB’s public relations manager, spoke to the local business community about the importance of hosting travel media to give a third-party endorsement of Alabama’s beaches through written and visual storytelling.

“When you host media for an individual or group press trip, you build relationships and see repeated and lasting results,” Maghan said. “When journalists and bloggers experience the destination, industry partners have the opportunity to gain loyal brand ambassadors.”

Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell wrapped up the event, reporting tax revenue from beach tourism saved Alabama families upward of $425 in state taxes for 2015. “The level of expertise and professionalism at this CVB is astonishing,” Sentell said.

Commercial real estate moves
Stantec, an engineering and architectural design services company, recently signed a five-year lease to occupy approximately 2,820 square feet on the first floor of Montlimar Place at 1110 Montlimar Drive in West Mobile, according to Tommy Gleason, CCIM of NAI Mobile. Montlimar Place is a recently renovated, 10-story office building equipped with a community conference room, workout facility, outdoor lunch-break area and more. Availabilities remain on the first six floors and floor 10.

According to Vallas Realty Inc., Atlanta, Georgia-based Popeye’s will be adding two new locations in Mobile. One will be in the space formerly occupied by Tropical Smoothie on the corner of Schillinger Road and Glider Avenue, across from the Wal-Mart Supercenter, while Tropical Smoothie will relocate to the new Westgate Pavilion in front of Academy Sports. Popeye’s also will be constructing a new 3,000-square-foot building at Spring Hill and Davenport avenues in the Crichton area, adjacent to the new Dollar Tree proposed for that development. According to John Vallas, over $500,000 will be spent locally on renovations and upgrades.

According to M.J. Baxter & Associates, the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile recently paid $367,000 for the two-acre former AMF Florida Bowling Lanes site at 170 Florida St. in Midtown Mobile. Catholic Social Services occupies the former Greer’s Food Tiger property next door. Marietta Urquhart with White-Spunner Realty represented the sellers.

Some 3,200 square feet of retail space was recently leased at 5956 Three Notch Road by locally owned FatBoyz Choppers based in Theodore. The lease transaction for the Harley-Davidson authorized extended warranty service center was handled by Colby Herrington of Herrington and Associates

Austal USA awarded $18.5 million materials contract
Austal USA was recently awarded an $18.5 million contract to procure long-lead materials for the 12th Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessel for the U.S. Navy.

The award covers materials including main propulsion engines, generators, water jets, main reduction gears and other long lead time items.

“This material procurement contract is further evidence of the Navy’s unwavering support of the EPF program’s continuing success,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said. “We are excited about the feedback we’re getting on the EPFs already delivered and the potential this program has to be extended.”

Austal’s EPF program is strong, with six ships delivered and three more under construction at its Mobile facility. The 338-foot Spearhead-class EPF is currently providing high-speed, high-payload transport capability to fleet and combatant commanders.

Austal was awarded a $1.6 billion 10-ship block buy contract in November 2008 that initiated construction of the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport program.

In addition to the EPF program, Austal is working under a contract worth more than $3.5 billion to build 11 Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Three LCS have been delivered while an additional seven are in various stages of construction.