According to Dr. Semoon Chang, Economist at the Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies, the primary reasons why the Mobile Metro market was selected as one of top manufacturing regions in the country — as highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article — is because the area was able to attract the former ThyssenKrupp (now Calvert AM/NS) plant, Austal USA’s recent expansion and the successful wooing of Airbus.

“It is important to understand why were able to achieve these landmark objectives. Three main reasons stand out. First is that Alabama is a right-to-work state, meaning that workers are free to join (or not join) labor unions. This has been a key factor in industrial location selection during the past 30 or so years in the U.S.,” Chang said.

Secondly, industrial recruiting at the state level in Alabama is one of the best in the country according to Chang. He knows this first-hand because of his proactive involvement in the process.

“I prepared an economic impact study of TK for the Mobile County Commission when the commission was organizing several counties to raise incentive money to attract them. I also prepared economic impact studies for Austal USA during their plans for expansion. We are very competitive in attracting new industries,” Chang said.

The Port City’s abundant water resources played a final decisive role. An easily accessed water supply is crucial to steel manufacturing, shipbuilding and for Airbus’ manufacturing plans at Brookley. A large part of their decision to land here was because of Mobile’s environment, according to Chang.

“It would be interesting to see whether and/or how long it will take for factors that hurt Northern industrial states to start affecting our area. It is also interesting to find out how well community leaders can accommodate what could be considered conflicting objectives of improving tourism versus promoting manufacturing activities,” Chang said.  

Local BNI South Alabama franchise changes ownership

With over a 10-year footprint in the area, the local BNI (Business Network International) franchise has recently changed ownership.

BNI is a structured professional networking organization. It has been called “the world’s largest referral organization” with over 150,000 members worldwide. BNI is in over 45 countries worldwide and was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner in Riverside, Cal., for the primary purpose of building powerful referral networks.

“BNI is successful because of the model. I’ve always thought of the members as a large sales force for each business in their chapter. A business owner is usually busy running his/her business and they have limited time and resources for networking and sales. This team of people can expand each business’s prospecting opportunities,” said Danette Richards, director of Small Business Development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

New owner, Executive Director Meaghan Chitwood, hails from Huntsville and is taking over eight chapters in the Mobile/Baldwin County markets with over a hundred members. Chitwood has been involved with BNI for over 10 years and holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Auburn University.

“I went to high school in Mobile at the Alabama Schools of Mathematics and Science. Mobile is tied to some of the best experiences of my life; I can’t wait to be visiting regularly again,” Chitwood said.

In northern Alabama Chitwood has 28 chapters with over 700 members who have passed upwards of $48 million in closed business. Her region in north Alabama has been in the top 20 percent of over 450 franchises worldwide.

Based on the results in northern Alabama, Chitwood expects south Alabama business owners involved with BNI to possibly anticipate a return of up to 24 times their investment from membership.  

“It is such an exciting time for small businesses here locally. As an example, you hear of people talking about how many jobs Airbus is going to bring to the area and how many ancillary contracts will support Airbus directly. I look forward to being in Mobile helping our members grow,” Chitwood said.

Exxon kicks off summer jobs program

ExxonMobil’s Mobile Bay Operations recently kicked off its annual Community Summer Jobs Program.

The six-week summer program provides assistance to nonprofit agencies while allowing college students to gain valuable work experience and an appreciation for the important role of nonprofit organizations. This year’s grants are funding 16 students working at eight different local nonprofits.

“For nearly 20 years ExxonMobil has participated locally in the Community Summer Jobs Program,” said Russ Golson, ExxonMobil Mobile Bay Operations Superintendent. “Since 1996, we have enabled nearly 260 college students to intern with area nonprofit organizations. The program benefits both the nonprofit agencies, which gain workers during their peak time, and students, who utilize the internships to improve their skill sets. The hope is that the students will also develop a life-long passion for community service.”

Participating agencies include the American Red Cross, Bayou La Batre Public Library, Bellingrath-Morse Foundation, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Gulf Coast Exploreum, Housing First, Volunteers of America Southeast, and the Weeks Bay Foundation.

ExxonMobil’s Mobile Bay Operations operates seven offshore platforms and 12 well templates in state and federal waters in and around Mobile Bay. The company first produced natural gas in Mobile Bay in 1988 and has invested more than $3 billion in its operations since first locating in Alabama. Mobile Bay Operations has approximately 200 employees and contractors.

For more information please contact Scott Rye at 251-753-6921 or

Local realtor remembered

Bernard Joseph Heggeman, III, a native and life-long Mobilian, passed away on May 30, 2014. Heggeman was a nationally known realtor and President of locally owned Heggeman Realty Co., Inc. Son of the founder, he had been with the company for almost 35 years and assumed the role of President in 1997.

Professional affiliations included memberships in the Mobile County Board of Realtors, the Alabama Association of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors, The Mobile Commercial Real Estate Exchange and the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), where he served in various leadership positions.