The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce recently announced the Austria-based Lenzing Group, a global manufacturer and supplier of textiles with 6,127 employees worldwide, approved an expansion of its production facility in Axis that, when completed in 2019, will increase its workforce with 163 new jobs.

“This expansion in tencel fiber capacity represents a unique milestone in the history of the Axis facility and for the Lenzing Group. The investment of $293 million is part of our strategic growth program announced a year ago,” Lenzing chief commercial officer Robert van de Kerkhof said.

According to site manager Kevin Allen, the expansion will more than double current fiber production in Axis, making it their largest production site in the world with a total capacity of 140,000 tons annually.

“This project is significant for Mobile County because it represents the fruits of our labor in expanding our manufacturing sector,” Merceria Ludgood, president of the Mobile County Commission, said. The project is located in her district. “The county has experienced a 31 percent boost in manufacturing from 2010 to 2015. This announcement means jobs will be available right here in our county.”

The region’s manufacturing growth has earned recognition twice from the U.S. Department of Commerce — as one of the first 12 manufacturing communities in the country in 2014 and again in 2016.

Commercial real estate moves
Saad Healthcare recently broke ground for a new 34,000-square-foot inpatient hospice facility to be built immediately behind its existing property at 1515 University Blvd. S. in West Mobile. The new space will provide residential end-of-life care for patients with terminal diseases or conditions and is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Cycle Gear has leased 4,000 square feet of retail space at 1446 West I-65 Service Road in Mobile and plans to open mid-January. Angela McArthur, broker with Stirling Properties, represented the property owner. Robert Cook with Vallas Realty worked for the tenant. This marks the third Alabama location for the national motorcycle-gear chain.

Direct Furniture Outlet has leased 15,233 square feet of retail space at Spanish Fort Town Center, located at 30000 Town Center Ave., Suite B2, in Spanish Fort. Angela McArthur and Jeff Barnes with Stirling Properties worked for the property owner. Buff Teague with JLL represented the tenant. The furniture store plans to open in early 2017.

First Equine Veterinary Services, a full-service equine ambulatory practice, recently opened in Mobile. Working out of a virtual office, the business will serve the central Gulf Coast, with plans in place to open a brick and mortar site in the next 18 to 24 months.

Hamilton & Co. recently leased a 3,500-square-foot office/warehouse space at 6255 Rangeline Road in Mobile. Rhodes Mechanical will occupy the space as it relocates from Daphne. 

Sharon Wright with White-Spunner Realty leased a 2,100-square-foot office building at 1208-B U.S. Highway 98 in Daphne to Pensacola, Florida-based CPC Office Technologies, a provider of office equipment technology solutions. The property is located at the corner of Highway 98 and Stanton Road, adjacent to Urgent Care by the Bay. Thomas Galloney with Keller Williams represented the landlord.

Hamilton & Co. assisted in the sale of commercial property at 9757 U.S. Highway 43 N. in Creola. The small free-standing structure will be utilized for auto sales. 

Sharon Wight with White-Spunner Realty sold the 3,660-square-foot former restaurant building at 28905 U.S. Highway 98 in Daphne to a local investor for $490,000. Currently the buyer does not have specific plans in place for development of the property. 

USA’s Piazza named NAI Fellow
Gary A. Piazza, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and oncologic sciences at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, has been named an NAI Fellow by the National Academy of Inventors. He is one of 175 members of the 2016 class and the first ever from the University of South Alabama.

NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors and is based upon a nominee’s patent portfolio. There are a total of 757 Fellows representing 229 research universities, governmental and nonprofit research institutes. Among them are inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Nobel Laureates and recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the U.S. National Medal of Science.

Piazza came to MCI in 2011 from the Southern Research Institute and is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with postdoctoral training from Fox Chase Cancer Center and Brown University. He holds more than 70 issued or pending patents, including ADT Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company he co-founded with the mission of anti-cancer development therapeutics.

Piazza’s most recent patent applications involve novel inhibitors of the RAS oncoprotein, which is considered a culprit in the most aggressive cancers that are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. These inhibitors are currently in the pre-clinical drug development stage and hold promise for the treatment of pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers. 

Piazza will be inducted as a Fellow on April 6 at the sixth annual Conference of the NAI in Boston.

BASF contributes more than $43,000 to UWSWA
BASF’s site in McIntosh donated more than $40,000 to United Way of Southwest Alabama. The funds will benefit more than 50 United Way partner agencies across Choctaw, Clarke, Mobile and Washington counties, according to a news release.

“Our partnership with United Way reflects a shared commitment to strengthening the communities in which we live and work,” Jason Slinkard, site director of the BASF site in McIntosh, said. “This contribution will support the great work United Way does to serve the critical needs of our neighbors in the area.” 

In addition to the donation, BASF employee volunteers participated in United Way’s annual Day of Caring. Employees dedicated a full day of work to seven projects at the Educational Center for Independence, an organization that addresses some of the most critical needs for persons with intellectual disabilities.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with BASF and its employees,” Clifford Grimes, president and CEO of UWSWA, said. “They have been longtime supporters of United Way and every year answer the call to give from their hearts. They make our vision of a better community real. For that, we thank BASF from the bottom of our hearts.”