Rural Sourcing Inc., Mobile’s latest high tech firm focusing on cost-effective onshore information technology software solutions, recently acquired a major recruitment coup. Dan Zirbes has been hired as Development Center Manager to oversee the local office.
Prior to coming to Rural Sourcing, he was the Director of Information Technology for ThyssenKrupp USA (now AM/NS Calvert). In this role as director, he was responsible for the design, build and implementation of the systems landscape and IT infrastructure for the $4.6 billion Greenfield steel manufacturing facility that covers 3,700 acres.
Originally, Zirbes came to Alabama to help build the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) automotive facility in Tuscaloosa. He joined MBUSI early in the start-up phase of the new M-Class plant project in 1994 as an IT Manager and later as CIO for MBUSI. The plant was the first manufacturing facility outside of Germany at the time.
Zirbes is a native of Chicago. He and his wife, Robin, have three sons, and now make their home in Fairhope.
In an exclusive interview, Lagniappe spoke with Zirbes to glean insight on implementing RSI’s relatively aggressive plans for expansion.
Q: What opportunity presented by RSI made this move from TK so compelling professionally?
Zirbes: I was at TK for about six years, the last two were spent in working on trying to ramp up the company as much as possible to full production. In addition, during this time, the team was working with the knowledge that they had TK up on the chopping blocks. After the sale, I saw the announcement that RSI was opening an office in Mobile and it seemed to be the right time to make a move. Over my career, I’ve developed a liking for the challenge of working with startups, and thus reached out to RSI to see if there was a role for me within their local office. It seemed to be perfect timing and after a several weeks of discussions with RSI, and my wife Robin, I joined the team.
Q: Specifically, what skill sets/experiences do you bring to the table that are going to help RSI get off the ground with such aggressive growth plans in place?
Zirbes: I’ve had the privilege of leading the IT teams of the two German manufacturing startups in Alabama for the past 20 years. The site at MBUSI was 1,000 acres and, when I arrived, we were cutting trees so we could put trailers in place. The same is true at the 3,700-acre site in Calvert for TK. I will bring my experience from building IT systems, processes and technology to rapidly grow our team here now and moving forward.
Q: What do you see as the biggest roadblocks in the way of accomplishing these goals?
Zirbes: As with any business, the team is the foundation and our most valued resource. Our challenge is to recruit, hire and ramp up colleagues so we can earn business, generate revenue, and succeed. While we are doing this, we have to manage the influx of new people added on a weekly basis into our temporary office space adjacent to the Civic Center. Accordingly, we also have to manage the move into our permanent location downtown over the ensuing months without incident while keeping the business of supporting our customers smoothly moving.
Q: Final thoughts?
Zirbes: I was attracted by the quality of the people I met in the interview process, and especially Monty Hamilton, CEO. His vision, drive and excitement for the business are contagious. I applaud the city, Mayor Stimpson and the state of Alabama for the opportunity we have ahead of us. We are creating jobs in Mobile that will enable people to live, work and enjoy life right here on the Gulf Coast. I know how powerful and life-changing having a good job in your home area can be for someone. At MBUSI, countless lives have been improved over the past 20 years since Mercedes decided to move into the state. The same held true at TK. I look forward to watching my third Alabama startup grow and thrive in the years ahead.
Observations on MAAR’s 100th anniversary gala
The Mobile Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) recently fêted its 100-year anniversary in an auspicious event at the Alabama Cruise Terminal.
In attendance were prominent city officials, executives from generation-spanning local firms and virtually every realtor and/or broker who calls the Port City home.
According to Colby Cooper, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff, the new administration plans to work more closely with MAAR moving forward as first steps towards facilitating a friendlier business relationship with all spectrums of private industry citywide.
“The MAAR plays a vitally important part in the future of Mobile. As Mayor Stimpson works to accomplish his vision of making Mobile the safest, most business- and family-friendly city in America by 2020, his administration will be relying on public-private partnerships that help bring this vision to reality. The MAAR has long been invested in the success of Mobile, as it turns a century-old, this administration will look to them more than ever to help grow, sell and bring out the best in Mobile,” Cooper said.
Per current MAAR President Butch Blum, the celebration marked a century of being the voice for private property rights in Mobile. Executive director Chad Fincher noted that more than 400 people were in attendance at the event.
“Looking around at the professional crowd last night, it was amazing to see such diversity and a mix of every generation all under one roof.
The anniversary was perfect timing in regards to complimenting the momentum growth this city is collectively striving to achieve with the goals it has set forth for itself,” said GCMLS Board of Director member Leighton Dees.
Commercial real estate moves
Hero’s and Teairah’s, a children’s clothing and accessories store, has leased 1,200-square-feet of retail space at 2502 S. Schillinger Road, Suite 5 in the Winn Dixie Shopping Center. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper and Co., Inc. Commercial Division handled the transaction.
Mobile Chamber’s Inaugural Small Business Week
Next Monday the Mobile Chamber of Commerce will launch its first Small Business Week, an initiative to recognize existing and emergent small-scale companies regionally. This milestone is the brainchild of Mobile Chamber President Bill Sisson and CEO of Swift Biotechnology, Michael Chambers.
“Bill and Michael recognized the fact that — outside of the sexy headlines major corporations moving into the area create — addressing the needs of local small business was the next strategic step to help spur our economic growth,” said Susan-Rak Blanchard, the Mobile Chamber’s Director of Communications.
From May 12th to the 15th, activities will include workshops offering strategies to hopefully help Mom & Pop shops reach another level of success. The week culminates with a luncheon at the Mobile Marriott on Thursday, May 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring keynote speakers Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of Barefoot Cellars.
The Chamber will also present its inaugural Outstanding Entrepreneur Award to Jim Busby, chairman and chief operating officer of CentraLite Systems Inc. during the event.
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