The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Manufacturer and Innovator of the Year awards were announced recently at a presentation sponsored by Partners for Growth investors. PFG, a program of the Mobile Area Chamber, is funded by private-sector business and industry, the city of Mobile and Mobile County.

Additionally, 17 companies added employees and/or made significant capital investments, aerospace companies continue to locate at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley to be near Airbus, and four local companies registered impressive growth on the Inc. 5000.

BASF was selected as 2016 Manufacturer of the Year. Since BASF Corp. acquired Ciba, including its McIntosh facility in 2009, the Germany-headquartered company has maintained its local employee base, increased production and significantly invested in the site, which opened in 1952.

One of the world’s largest chemical companies, the local production units cater to the food and beverage, automobile, furniture and flooring industries.

Over the last three years, BASF has more than doubled its annual capital spending locally to make infrastructure improvements, expanded capacity and improved equipment reliability. Local managers expect this trend to continue the next three to five years, with advantageous market conditions and higher demand as the driving forces.

The company funds a number of science scholarships at various educational institutions and hosts BASF Kids’ Lab, where students are scientists for a day. The site has also been honored with numerous safety and environmental awards, including Manufacture Alabama’s Safety Award. Currently more than 550 area employees work at the McIntosh facility.

“BASF is a cornerstone of our chemical sector, anchoring our base materials corridor that stretches from Washington County to south Mobile County,” Troy Wayman, Mobile Chamber’s vice president of economic development, said. “Their commitment to the area is exemplified by their investments in MacIntosh and colocation projects with other industry leaders in Theodore, as well as their charitable corporate citizenry, make them an obvious choice for Manufacturer of the Year.”

Prism Systems was selected by the Mobile Chamber as the 2016 Innovator of the Year. The company’s automation and control programming and software development services reach into Fortune 500 companies and other customers in 41 states and 31 countries in 12 key industries, including energy, entertainment, government, oil and gas, pulp and paper, and education.

The Mobile-based business is active in the local community, participating in the American Cancer Society Chili Cook-Off and hosting an annual Toys for Tots drive.

The 27-year-old company has nearly 50 employees and earlier this year opened a new research and development lab, generating additional new hires. Other locations include engineering offices in Birmingham; Glendale, California; and a manufacturing assembly location in Alabama’s Washington County.

“Prism Systems is a perfect example of the ‘new’ Mobile that’s touching the world. The innovative solutions they provide in multiple business environments across the globe showcase the capabilities and talent our community offers,” Wayman said.

Other local companies announcing jobs and/or investment from July 2015 to July 2016 included: APM Terminals Mobile LLC, 20 jobs and $9 million capital investment; Austal, $16 million capital investment; C Spire, $3 million capital investment; Canfor Southern Pine, 20 jobs and U.S. headquarters in Mobile; Danby Products Inc., 25 jobs; Dupont Crop Protection, $8.8 million capital investment; Evonik, 50 jobs and $200 million capital investment; FedEx, 100 jobs and new warehouse and distribution center; Infirmary Health, 220 employees and $5.5 million capital investment; iSam North America Corp., $1.1 million capital investment; Prism Systems, 16 jobs and $877,000 capital investment; Southern Light, 29 jobs and $7 million capital investment; Technip, $31 million capital investment; The SSI Group, seven jobs and $4 million capital investment; Wells Fargo, 18 jobs and $3.1 million capital investment; and Worthington Industries, eight jobs and $4.6 million capital investment.

The latest companies joining the Mobile market as a result of the presence of Airbus include Broetje Automation’s M-Technologie, Panasonic Avionics, Recaro Aircraft Seating Co., Vartan Product Support and Zodiac Aerospace.

The companies included on the 2016 Inc. 5000, along with their percentage growth, were: Mobile-based AccuReg, 104 percent; Mobile-based Hargrove Engineers & Constructors, 115 percent; Mobile-based CentraLite, 364 percent; and Daphne-based JMF Solutions, 136 percent.

Commercial real estate moves
According to owner Robert J. Isakson, Lafayette Land Co. recently purchased the first self-service 9,000-square-foot grocerteria in Alabama, opened in 1927 by the now-defunct Mobile-based Delchamps grocery chain and located on the corner of 662 St. Louis St. and Washington Avenue.

“Grocerteria” is defined as a grocery store where customers directly pick up products from shelves and pay for them upon leaving, as opposed to shoppers being directly served by a retail assistant. In terms of significance, the former downtown Delchamps retailer established the local precedent — almost 90 years ago — of the modern grocery shopping business model currently in practice today.

Per Isakson, self-service grocery shopping was first introduced in the state at this site, having been initially introduced to the nation 11 years prior in 1916 by retail grocer Piggly Wiggly, based in Memphis, Tennessee. The property is being restored with an eye toward historical preservation by Lafayette Land Co. program manager Christopher Huffman.

The site is also across the street from the former Nash Dealership, currently being renovated by Olde Mobile Antiques and adjacent to downtown’s historic “Automobile Alley.” The transaction was handled by Heather Huffman, broker with NAI-Mobile

The building is currently under lease to a local law firm as well as Fowler Chandeliers, which is scheduled to open a new retail space before Christmas. A 2,000-square-foot outbuilding previously occupied by the Downtown Mobile Alliance is also for lease.

Renovations are expected to be completed by late November with total anticipated investment upwards of $1 million.

Voodoo Custom Coatings and Wheel Repair (formerly Advanced Wheel Repair) recently signed a three-year lease at 1216 South Beltline Highway in Mobile. The owners recently moved from a 1,500-square-foot property in Daphne to the new 6,000-square-foot space. The retailer is located directly across the interstate from AutoNation Honda. 

Buywise, a furniture and appliance retailer, has signed a lease for a 6,630-square-foot retail space in Saraland within the former Linen Locker space, according to Buff Teague and Allen Garstecki with JLL. The business plans to open late November.