Every June, the 57-year-old, locally founded Distinguished Young Women (DYW) event — originally known as America’s Junior Miss — hosts 50 of the nation’s best and brightest young women, along with their families and friends, event chairmen and judges, a production crew and numerous guests here in the Azalea City.

What is not so well-known, and may be less appreciated, is the full scope of the event’s economic impact on this area.

For perspective, let’s look at the numbers.

During their time here, 4,800 supporters book approximately 600 local hotel room nights for the four-night event. It’s estimated that $100,000 will be spent on food and beverages alone.

Ticket sales for the program generate approximately $45,000 in sales; 99 local vendors are participating in 2015 and are estimated to rake in $148,000 from activities; a local production company was secured to produce the 57th and 58th National Finals event, pumping more dollars back into the economy.

Additionally, Mobile County is mentioned across the country in media accessed by more than 100,000 individuals and given verbal recognition in 417 state and local broadcast programs. During the most recent webcast, the DYW website received approximately 120,000 hits with approximately 20,000 consistent views. Extensive social media coverage through the program is roughly estimated to be worth in excess of $100 million.

A 2002 study by local economist Dr. Semoon Chang, of the Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies, estimated that DYW’s economic impact was in excess of $2 million. While it’s difficult to update estimate without details into DYW’s current operation, Chang did suggest the 2002 estimate is easily relevant in today’s dollars, and could be more.

“There is no doubt that the economic impact of the Distinguished Young Women event easily exceeds the $2 million that I estimated earlier. More importantly, however, there is an important impact that cannot be quantified. The DYW event plays a very important role in promoting Mobile to the rest of the country as a progressive place with rich culture. A clear evidence of this impact is the decision of a number of distinguished young women to attend universities in the Mobile area.” Chang said.
    
Commercial real estate moves
Marl M. Cummings with Cummings & Associates, Inc. recently sold Gulfway Plaza, located on State Highway 59 in Robertsdale, to a local investor for $865,000. The center is fully leased to AT&T and Little Caesars, according to Cummings.

Some 4,500 square feet of office space was leased by Mobile Pediatrics in West Mobile on Piccadilly Square Drive. Jill Meeks and Angie McArthur with Stirling Properties managed the transaction. The clinic plans to move from its current location near the University of South Alabama campus in September.
    
Bay Area Surface Solutions, a counter top refinishing and clawfoot tub restoration company, has leased a 1,500-square-foot showroom and warehouse space at 2150 Old Government St. and is now open for business. Amber Dedeaux of Vallas Realty brokered the transaction.

Sharon Wright with White-Spunner Realty leased a 4,000-square-foot building at 5348-B U.S. Highway 90 in Tillman’s Corner to Bright’s Automotive Center.

New body imaging technology  
In 2002, a local technology was released to allow physicians to see inside a patient’s small intestine by having them swallow a pill-sized camera. At the time, it had limitations — primarily, it couldn’t reach further into the digestive system to examine the large intestine.

Now, doctors with the University of South Alabama Physicians Group can visualize the entire gastrointestinal tract using a new technology called PillCam COLON. USA is one of only 17 centers across the country offering the technology.

“Thirteen years ago we introduced video-capsule endoscopy for small bowel. Amid the enthusiasm, patients also wanted a video capsule to study the colon,” Dr. Jack Di Palma, director of the University of South Alabama Digestive Health Center and professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine, said. “Today we can offer that technology to patients.”

According to a press release, through PillCam COLON, developed by Given Imaging, physicians are able to visualize the colon to monitor and diagnose disorders of the gastrointestinal tract without sedation or invasive endoscopic procedures. The technology uses a tiny camera contained in a disposable capsule that naturally passes through the digestive system.

While colonoscopy is still the gold standard for colon cancer screening, according to Dr. Di Palma, the new technology can be used for patients who have had an incomplete colonoscopy or for those who cannot tolerate a colonoscopy for screening.

“Undergoing a complete colon evaluation is extremely important for the detection of polyps, small clumps of cells that form in the lining of the colon that can become cancerous over time. The accuracy of PillCam COLON is comparable to other colonoscopy alternatives for detecting polyps,” Di Palma said.
 
Similar to the preparation for colonoscopy, doctors may recommend a clear liquid diet the day before the exam and laxatives the night before and morning of the exam. The technology works first by connecting sensors to a belt attached to the patient’s chest and abdomen. The patient wears the belt while it captures images transmitted from the camera and stores them in a small computer.

The computer stores the pill’s journey through the body, snapping two pictures per second. Images are later downloaded and viewed on the physician’s desktop computer.

After the exam, a colonoscopy may be recommended to remove and treat any findings such as polyps, if present. Currently, PillCam COLON is not covered by insurance and the procedure costs $1,750. For more information call USA College of Medicine at 251-660-5555.

Sections of Joachim St. temporarily closing downtown
According to an announcement by Carol Hunter from the Downtown Mobile Alliance, on Thursday June 25 starting at 7 a.m., Joachim Street will be closed between Government and Church streets. The closure is related to the renovation project at the Admiral Semmes Hotel. Police officers are expected to be onsite to assist in directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The work is anticipated to last through the day, but may also require closure on Friday June 26. For additional information contact Mobile 311 by dialing 311 or call 251-208-5311.