The fate of the Admiral Semmes is a mystery no longer. Recently purchased by the Hattiesburg-based Thrash family of property developers, comprised of patriarch Ike Thrash and sons Joe and Walker Thrash, in a partnership with Mobile native Bruce C. Cope, plans for one of the Port City’s most historic hotels are to revisit its art deco 1940s origins while simultaneously adopting a 21st century geek-chic for the tech savvy discerning traveler.

“The Admiral Semmes is an iconic structure in downtown Mobile. Our goal is to revitalize its art deco architecture while developing a truly unique boutique hotel experience,” Walker Thrash, vice-president of construction said. “We want to offer Mobile an alternative style that compliments the existing hotel options in the area. We believe the Admiral will be an excellent fit for a discerning guest wanting to experience the downtown entertainment district.”

Coupled with the revamped art deco style that made the Admiral iconic – prior to a 1984 “modernization” – 21st century touches will abound to welcome young professional business types alongside families that traditionally frequent the hotel.

“Restaurants replete with flat screens accessing a full spectrum of social media, top notch Wi-Fi installed, iPad check-in/check-out services and many other amenities not even in existence 10 years ago will be part of the modern touches,” Thrash said.

Assisted by architect James Flick of Dallas-based hospitality project development firm Flick Mars, the multimillion dollar renovation is expected to start in earnest by the end of 2014 with a 12 to 14 month completion horizon.

“Interior work will not be a simple ‘paint and wallpaper’ job but an entire repurposing of the interior – from plumbing to electrical to mechanical to structural. The Admiral has good bones, but was in dire need of an overhaul. It was apparent, however, from the first walk through of the property to our final conference call with designers that the answer of what to do with the place was leaping out at us,” Joe Thrash, vice-president of operations said.

“Flick Mars is custom designing every piece of furniture, every ornament and every piece of artwork specifically for the hotel. An interesting coincidence occurred when we discovered that the original color scheme from old photos found at the University of South Alabama archives closely matched what had been independently selected for the renovation. An ‘Admiral Semmes Yellow Azalea’ shade named after the hotel was incorporated into the scheme afterwards. It was a happy accident reinforcing our feeling of going down the right path for this process.”

Local subcontractors will be employed for the refurbishment, adding up to 100 temporary new jobs downtown. The hotel itself, staying open during the work, also has aggressive growth plans according to new General Manager Joe Langford.

“We currently have around 30 employees at the hotel, but there are openings at the managerial as well as staff level. We will hire a front office manager, a restaurant manager and a director of food and beverage (among other key positions) in the future. Ultimately, our goal is to employ upwards of 100 people at full capacity,” Langford said.

The two restaurants in the hotel – Admiral’s Corner and Oliver’s – are not immune to the sea change. Langford is in charge of deciding what new eatery motifs may be implemented, but has yet to divulge what directions may be taken.

“For now all I can say is that the upgrades, possibly including a change of restaurants, will fill a niche from breakfast to late night dining in the area. Hopefully we will offer a unique experience versus other culinary locales downtown,”

With the discovery of restorable, original solid oak flooring underneath the 1980s carpet in the ballroom, Walker Thrash mentioned a possible increased focus on hosting wedding events after renovations. Modern signage for the hotel will also be installed.

Gratitude was expressed to city officials for assistance in the due diligence process.

“The city has been very receptive and proactively helped us in the discovery process when we initially met with Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his staff several months ago. Fred Rendfrey with the Downtown Mobile Alliance was also an asset from day one.

This was a pleasant surprise from other cities we’ve operated in and speaks well of the area,” Joe Thrash said.

HII awarded aircraft carrier overhaul contract worth almost $50 million

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) announced today that its Newport News Shipbuilding division has received a $49.6 million contract to begin planning for work on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). The contract is for 12 months and includes planning, engineering and shipboard inspections for work associated with the defueling of the ship.

“We are pleased to be able to begin planning for the defueling of CVN 73,” Chris Miner, vice president of in-service aircraft carrier programs said. “We hope this award is a first step toward the highly anticipated full award of the RCOH planning contract.”

HII is the only shipyard in the country with the ability to perform RCOH (Refueling and Complex Overhaul) work on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. This massive undertaking was described in a 2002 Rand Study as one of the most challenging engineering and industrial tasks undertaken anywhere by any organization.

The USS George Washington is the sixth Nimitz-class carrier built and will be the sixth ship of its class to undergo RCOH work.

AM/NS Calvert plant announces capital expansion plans

Production is ramping up and the AM/NS Calvert plant in Alabama.  

Since acquisition of the Calvert facility by the world’s first and second largest steel producers, their team has steadily ramped up to full production capacity goal of 5.3 million tons annually. Currently they are at roughly 75 percent of production capacity according to Scott Posey, director of communication. 

In an effort to accomplish the objective, corporate executives recently met with the Mobile Industrial Development Board and shared their intentions of investing upwards of $40 million in capital expansion that will increase steel slab staging capacity and efficiency. Apart from assurances to use local contractors for the robust investment, 16 new crane operator positions have now opened up at the plant in need of filling.

According to Posey, this and future planned expansion projects on the table are strong indicators of an ROI uptick for the state and local economy due to the company’s efforts.