The Alabama State Port Authority is anticipating a 10 percent increase in activity from a Wal-Mart distribution center already under construction, port President and CEO Jimmy Lyons said following an official announcement for the project at APM Terminals Wednesday morning.
The center, which many officials jokingly referred to as the “worst-kept secret,” would mean 25,000 new containers per year would come through the port, Lyons said.
The increase will mean an uptick in employment at the port and possibly an adjustment of the hours they’re open, Lyons said. The container port is now open nine hours per day, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, Lyons said the increase in activity could mean lower hours during the week and possibly Saturday hours.
The announcement comes as APM looks to expand the container port in order to grow capacity, APM’s local director Brian Harold said.
“We’ll also soon be receiving two new ship-to-shore cranes with super Panamax capabilities,” he told the crowd gathered for the announcement.
The new distribution center will not only increase traffic at the port, but will help the port save money when it comes to exports. Lyons said Mobile’s port has a large export business, which means empty containers are necessary. Lyons said the 25,000 containers Wal-Mart brings in per year, once emptied, will easily be able to be refilled by exporters and put back into use. This will provide a savings.
“Our focus was on trying to recruit this type of company,” Lyons said.
Wal-Mart’s choice of Mobile for a logistics hub could open the port and the city to new opportunities within the industry.
“The industry will notice,” Lyons said during remarks at the announcement. “They’ll take notice of Mobile. We’re very pleased … ”
The center, at Interstate 10 and McDonald Road, will bring 550 jobs to the area. The jobs will pay, on average, $16.50 per hour, Glen Wilkins, Wal-Mart director of public affairs, said.
“There was tremendous competition for this distribution center,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want a state-of-the-art distribution center with 550 good paying jobs?”
The center will begin hiring early next year and is expected to open by the second quarter of 2016, Wilkins said.
With the number of jobs and the average pay, County Commissioner Jerry Carl said the center represents a butterfly effect for the area economically. He described the concept as a single butterfly flapping its wings in Africa and causing a hurricane somewhere else.
“I’m proud the distribution center will create 550 new jobs … Well-paying jobs for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said. “I’m proud to say I was part of this butterfly effect that will one day become a hurricane.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson pledged that the city would do whatever it needed to do to help ensure the facility was successful. He described the planned 2.5 million square-foot facility as 30 U.S.S Alabama battleships stacked together.
The city and county have already pitched in to help incentivize Wal-Mart to pick the location it did. Both local governments gave $2.3 million in cash incentives and the state pitched in with about $4.5 million. This means, in all, Wal-Mart will be receiving a total cash value of $9.1 million.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce said the announcement helps to highlight Mobile’s strategic importance to the state. He also joked about the timing of the announcement.
“This is a great day,” he said. “It is the worst-kept secret, but it’s the worst-kept secret that made this an excellent day for us to be here.”