Jobs and economic development dominated the talking points during the 2016 State of the City and County today hosted by the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President and CEO Bill Sisson said the city and county’s team approach to job creation has paid dividends over the last year, when Mobile attracted 578 new jobs and secured $503 million in capital investment.
“Our strong manufacturing base drives it,” he told the sellout crowd at the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center. “Those are high-paying, technical positions.”
Over the last five years, Mobile has seen a 38.1 percent increase in manufacturing, which is well above the national average of 8 percent, Sisson said. During that time, there has also been a 22.9 percent rise in wages.
Sisson also used his time to tout the city’s new incubator called an innovation portal, which was opened based on a feasibility study that showed a need to help further develop “microbusinesses.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson also touted job and growth from manufacturers like Airbus and Austal during his time at the podium.
“New airplanes are taking off. New warships are sailing,” Stimpson said. “ … If you look, you will see the pep in everyone’s step. You will sense the optimism that tomorrow is going to be even better than today and you will hear about the growing commitment to work together to realize the shared vision of ‘One Mobile.’”
Stimpson touted the recently delivery of the first Mobile-built Airbus A321 to JetBlue named the “Blues Mobile.”
“Airbus is laser focused on building great aircraft in Mobile,” Stimpson said. “Meanwhile, we are focused on making the most of the Airbus opportunity. Last month, we announced announced the 12th aerospace supplier to locate to Mobile since the opening of the Airbus final assembly line.”
Stimpson brought up other areas where job growth is happening within the city. For instance, he said, there’s a growing tech industry presence in downtown.
“While it may not have drawn worldwide headlines, the opening of RSI’s new office in the renovated Buick building downtown was a huge milestone in our effort to establish a tech corridor on St. Louis Street,” Stimpson said.
Stimpson also mentioned the importance of Austal to Mobile.
“The story of Austal’s incredible growth and the quality of its ships is helping change the image of what Mobile’s workforce can accomplish,” Stimpson said. “Their newest ship, the USS Montgomery, just returned from sea trials flying a broom from the yardarm. In Navy tradition that indicates a clean sweep of all their inspections.”
County Commission President Jerry Carl also touted job growth from the podium. Carl said the government was “in the arena” of 10,000 new jobs in the last decade.
“These new jobs have offered an average annual salary of $55,000,” Carl said. “Buildings and all other infrastructure for these businesses amounted to $6 billion.”
He touted the county’s job internship program, which is led by Commissioner Merceria Ludgood.
“More than 50 kids each year get 30 hours of on-the-job training, which equates to the real deal,” he said. “They go off for four weeks to jobs, most of them in the private sector.”
Both Stimpson and Carl cited millions of dollars in road projects being undertaken by both governments and both spoke about various amenities in the community, as well. In addition, Carl mentioned the construction on a new emergency operations center.
“This will be home to the Emergency Management Agency,” Carl said. “This facility is the very nerve center for responders to respond to disasters and any weather emergency. Our plan is to break ground this fall.”