Local businesses have aggressive growth plans moving into 2017 that far exceed national norms, according to results of a member survey released during the Mobile Area Chamber’s recent “State of the Economy” luncheon at The Battle House Renaissance Hotel in downtown Mobile.

Among the results of the survey, conducted in September: 24 companies plan to acquire or buy out another company; 35 businesses want to enter or expand into new domestic markets; 13 firms will enter or expand into new international markets; 20 companies will expand their physical plants and/or operations in Mobile; 47 firms expect to buy new equipment and/or software; and 41 businesses will pursue a new consumer/business segment.

“That’s a lot to look forward to and the Chamber will be on hand to assist as needed,” Bill Sisson, Mobile Chamber president and CEO, said. “I believe Mobile’s economic future is bright and it appears many business owners and managers feel likewise.”

To help the Chamber direct its efforts, members were asked about barriers to growth. Top responses were: attracting and retaining qualified employees; global market conditions; and weak sales.

Industry experts from the four relevant local business sectors spoke briefly at the luncheon. Highlights included:

Aerospace: Guy Hicks with Airbus Group Inc. said the 20-year demand for aircraft would exceed 33,070, with 5,807 made in Mobile.

Real Estate: Daniel Dennis with Roberts Brothers compared the 2016 residential housing market to what he considers the last normal year in Mobile, 2004. To date 2016 has surpassed 2004 in total sales volume. The impact of economic development efforts on real estate shows the largest effect found first in residential rentals, followed by residential sales and industrial, retail and sales occupancy.

Shipbuilding: Travis Short with Horizon Shipbuilding said shipbuilders worldwide have cut 20,000 jobs with more downsizing expected. Short’s market advice was adherence to Horizon’s model for survival in a down market: diversification, effective business relationships and innovation.

Chemicals: Bonnie Tully with Evonik Industries divulged pent-up demand in the local area for a chemical park. Evonik established one, leading to onsite investments by Bayer and BASF. Currently the facility is only 40 percent developed.

Tully credited low natural gas prices for resurgence in manufacturing and credited it for boosting the chemical industry. If prices stay low, she said, it will encourage future onshoring by other manufacturers.

Hand Arendall commemorates 75th anniversary
Mobile-based Hand Arendall, one of the largest law firms in the state, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. The firm was established in 1941, only a few months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, which precipitated the United States officially entering World War II. Originally established as Smith, Hand & Arendall, attorneys Massey Bedsole, Tommy Greaves and Vivian Johnston were the first among many local lawyers to join the growing practice.

After serving in WW II from 1941 to 1945, members returned to civilian duty and were named partners. The name was officially changed to Hand, Arendall, Bedsole, Greaves and Johnston but soon shortened to Hand Arendall, which has remained the firm’s recognized name ever since.

Over time Hand Arendall attained recognition on the national stage after successfully arguing two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: American Radio Association vs. Mobile Steamship Association Inc. on Aug. 22, 1973, resulting in a 5 to 4 vote in the client’s favor; and the Lane vs. Franks decision, which resulted in a unanimous affirmative vote on June 19, 2014.

Most recently, two members of the firm have gone on to become a state district court judge and a federal bankruptcy judge.

Additionally, through the work of attorneys Johnson and Charlie Arendall, the legal practice has been associated with a number prominent Wall Street firms, working with some of the nation’s leading lawyers and jurists from each of the 50 states and a number of foreign countries.

To date Hand Arendall has four offices in Mobile, Birmingham, Athens and Fairhope. It employs about 70 lawyers across all four locations and practices in more than 19 areas of traditional civil law, including admiralty, aerospace, bankruptcy, employment, health care, immigration, international law, real estate, government, tax, technology and intellectual property. Per a news release, it is the largest firm on the central Gulf Coast east of New Orleans.

Clients include local, regional and national companies. The firm has received numerous pro bono awards and is involved in Mobile’s Volunteer Lawyer Program, which has been a national model for other bar organizations. More information about the firm and a historical timeline of accomplishments can be found on its website.

Hargrove Foundation raises $30K at second annual fundraiser
Last week The Hargrove Foundation hosted its second annual gala at The Admiral Hotel in downtown Mobile, raising upwards of $30,000 to distribute to a bevy of worthy causes moving into 2017.

The keynote speaker for the evening was retired Lt. Gen. L. Honoré, U.S. Army. Honoré is best known for serving as commander of Joint Task Force-Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for areas affected by Hurricane Katrina across the Gulf Coast.

The Hargrove Foundation is the charitable link of the Hargrove family of companies and is uniquely funded by both internal and external contributions from employees and donors.

“Working as one team to support the communities in which we live and work, the foundation is Hargrove’s vehicle for making a true difference in the lives of others,” Vicki Studstill, Hargrove’s vice president of business development, said.

The foundation is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization and supports the following four sectors: education, arts and culture, qualified sports activities and health and human services. For more information visit their website.