Numerous businesses have recently set up shop in the McGowin Park Shopping Center off Government Street near Hank Aaron Stadium and Interstate 10 in Mobile, reports Buff Teague with JLL.

These include Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is opening a 2,400-square-foot restaurant space. Teague represented the landlord and Angela McArthur of Stirling Properties worked for Five Guys.

H&R Block is leasing a 1,200-square-foot office space. The Sleep Center is leasing a 4,000-square-foot retail space, opening in early 2016.
Other new tenants include Starbucks, Five Star Nutrition and Luxury Nails.

Teague handled the aforementioned transactions at McGowin Park on behalf of the landlord. Main anchor stores for McGowin Park include Field & Stream, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Costco.

Locally owned Big City Toys recently opened in Spring Hill Village Shopping Center, 4358 Old Shell Road. Teague represented the landlord.
Alfa Insurance recently leased office space at the Mobile Festival Centre located at 3725 Airport Blvd. Tim Herrington with Herrington Realty represented the tenant and Teague worked for the landlord.

Developer Cortland Inge has plans to open an Italian pub in Mobile. Teague worked for the landlord and Sharon Wright with White-Spunner Realty represented Inge. Plans for the name, concept and location of the new eatery are forthcoming, according to Teague.

The former 2,400-square-foot Roly Poly sandwich shop location at 6347 Hillcrest Road in Hillcrest Plaza in West Mobile will be occupied by Flour Girls Bakery in early 2016, per Teague. Sherrie Picket owns the local bakery.

JLL was also recently awarded the project leasing assignment for Pinebrook Shopping Center in Mobile, home of the new Whole Foods grocer. Teague, Allen Garstecki and Christy Chason with JLL will be handling all project leasing for the center.

Some 5,000 square feet of retail space at Pinebrook was recently leased by Bienville Beads & Throws, according to M.J. Baxter & Associates.

New Orleans-based Ruby Slipper Café has plans to open a new eatery in Orange Beach, according to city planners. The 6,500-square-foot property will be built near the well-known Live Bait restaurant located at 24281 Perdido Beach Blvd. This will be the chain’s first foray into Alabama; it currently has four locations in New Orleans and one in Pensacola.

Ground will soon be broken on a new 70,000-square-foot Infirmary Health System facility in Saraland, with construction finalized at the site in the next 18 months, according to Mark Nix, president and CEO. One hundred new high-paying jobs will be added in medical imaging and primary health services six months after opening. A workforce totaling 250 at the North Mobile County facility is expected to be in place when the facility is fully operational.         

State of the Economy summit   
Last week the Mobile Area Chamber hosted its first-ever 2015 State of the Economy summit at the Battle House Hotel in downtown Mobile. Leaders in the maritime, chemical/manufacturing, health care and aviation industries were invited to give their insights on business growth in their respective markets in a panel discussion hosted by Bill Sisson, president of the Mobile Area Chamber.

Panel members included Wendy Robertson of APM Terminals Mobile; Mark Nix, president and CEO of Infirmary Health Systems; George Vann, vice president and site manager of BASF McIntosh; and Rhett Ross, president of Continental Motors.  

The program also included keynote speaker Donald Ratajczak, Ph.D, an economist frequently quoted in such national media as Fortune, Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Journal of Commerce, Business Week, Bloomberg and NBC.

Highlights of the summit discussion included:
• APM Terminals’ Wendy Robertson said more ships are coming to Mobile and they are carrying larger cargo. The Panama Canal will soon triple in size and the Port of Mobile is ready to handle the increased capacity, she said. Robertson also said the new rail facility coming to Mobile in 2016 will significantly impact business in their industry going forward.

• BASF’s George Vann said chemical production will outpace GDP through the year 2020. “If you look to the next four to five years, the chemical industry is a good industry to be in,” Vann said. Currently the McIntosh facility employs more than 500 employees. The local facility is currently hiring and BASF plans to invest in its growth, he said.       

• Rhett Ross of Continental Motors said more than 1,000 people in Mobile and Baldwin counties work in general aviation, a $58 billion industry. This represents 20 percent of the state’s overall workforce in the sector, one of the largest concentrations in the state. Ross said Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technology could impact the industry moving forward.

“UAVs may change how employees are being used, but shouldn’t affect our core business. It will be interesting to see how the Amazons of the world fare over the next decade with this delivery system,” he said.     
• Per Mark Nix of Infirmary Health Systems, more than 15,000 people are locally employed in health care. Mobile has more hospitals in the region compared to cities of relatively similar size, including Baton Rouge and Birmingham. Nearly 1,000 physicians are employed in the area, Nix said, which is noteworthy.

Nix also noted that physicians’ groups are trending toward consolidation due to new electronic health record mandates and operational expenses. When asked about the future direction of health care costs due to ongoing Affordable Care Act compliance requirements, Nix said he believes establishing a program that allows health insurance to be purchased across state lines could be beneficial in addressing rising coverage seen in state exchanges.     
• Results from the Mobile Area Chamber’s economic outlook survey submitted this fall of 2015 were also mentioned. Some highlights: 66 percent of respondents expect lower unemployment in 2016 versus 2015; 59 percent think the economy is doing better now than two years ago; 71 percent of individuals expect more jobs to be created in 2016; 42 percent of local businesses plan to add employees next year; and the top three issues for Mobile companies that may affect their growth plans next year are economic uncertainty, regulatory burdens and declining consumer spending.