Fifteen years ago Hamburg, Germany’s downtown looked like Mobile. Today it’s a vibrant place where people want to live and it features high-end designers like Gucci and Chanel. What was the catalyst to transform the city? According to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who just came back from the city, it was the Airbus facility locating there and the foresight of Hamburg leaders to work to make their downtown better.
Stimpson and Director of Communications and External Affairs George Talbot went to Hamburg on Dec. 1 to attend the 2013 Aviation Forum where on Dec. 4 the mayor gave a keynote speech about Mobile.
The mayor returned Dec. 5 and the next day filled local media in about the trip he said was eye-opening and hopefully business-generating.
“We went to attend the Aviation Forum to meet with chief executive officers of aviation companies and suppliers. I also went to meet Airbus officials so they would get to know the new mayor of Mobile,” Stimpson said. “It was also important to meet with potential suppliers and tell them why Mobile is the best place for them.”
The four-day trip went “outstanding” Stimpson said, which was especially important since there was plenty of competition for Mobile. Stimpson said groups from Northwest Florida, Virginia and South Carolina were all at the forum trying to lure the same business, but one thing definitely set Mobile apart — Stimpson was the only one of that group to give a speech at the forum.
“The speech was a time where I could give a history of Mobile. I pointed out with EADS having footing in France, Great Britain and Spain, that Mobile has been under the French, English and Spanish flags,” he said. “I also said because of my corporate background, I knew the challenges businesses face. I told them Mobile is about being more business friendly and we are trying to make it easy to do business here.”
Being business friendly was very important to some of the potential suppliers Stimpson spoke to since many do not yet have a presence in the U.S.
“They have never had even an office in the United States so they want to learn what it takes to do that,” Stimpson said. “They were also looking to be somewhere where they could supply to Airbus’ competition as well.”
Supplying to two airplane manufacturers could very well be possible in Alabama. Gov. Robert Bentley will be submitting a proposal to Boeing by Dec. 10.
Stimpson spoke with Airbus about the possibility of Boeing coming to Alabama and said they understood why Alabama would want more business.
Regardless if Boeing comes to Alabama or not, Mobile stands on the edge of a possible transformation.
“Eric Weber with Airbus, who is down here about every three weeks, said that 15 years ago Hamburg’s downtown was not any different than Mobile’s. They decided to do a redevelopment plan and now 15 years later, young people want to live downtown,” Stimpson said. “Airbus is absolutely one of the things that helped that and also the early suppliers. It set a tone of what to come.”
The visit to Hamburg also showed Stimpson what Mobile needs to do to be ready for Airbus. He said he would like for more resources and infrastructure to be ready to go.
“I would like to be further along than where we are right not, but we’re not,” he said. “We need to be ready to be a showcase.”