Spotlight on Mobile County
Mobile held the first-known Mardi Gras celebration in North America in 1703. This photo is of the 2010 Floral Parade.
Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Tad Denson
Mobile County, located in the southwest corner of Alabama, is the state’s second most populous county. It has the state’s only seaport, and in its long history has been occupied by the French, Spanish and British before being annexed by the United States in 1813.
Founded in 1702, Mobile is one of the oldest cities in the U.S and is the county seat. It also is called the Azalea City and is known for its historic homes and museums that well record its history. Mobile also is a major tourist destination, with numerous festivals, tournaments and events, and is home to the nation’s original Mardi Gras. Mobile also is home to the Senior Bowl and the Go Daddy.com bowl. While the city did lose its Carnival cruise ships to New Orleans earlier this year, it is looking to fill that gap, officials say. Its abundance of rivers and Mobile Bay make it a destination for water sports, as well as other recreation.
Economically, Mobile County is known not only for its busy seaport, but also as a major shipbuilding city and steel producer with the arrival of ThyssenKrupp Steel and Stainless LLC in 2007. Other strong sectors include the University of South Alabama, the chemical industry and health care. Mobile is home to the USA Health System that includes the Mitchell Cancer Institute, expected to have a $1 billion economic impact over the next decade.
Other sectors regularly targeted by economic developers include aerospace and aviation, says Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the region’s economic development agency. “We do have a significant base of aviation and aerospace companies, and it is a target sector for us,” he says. “These are high-paying jobs, and with the Mobile Aviation Center able to provide education and training, we are seeing 100 percent job placement rates. The center is a marketing tool for us.”
Since 2008, economic development announcements have included more than 5,599 primary full-time positions with average wages of $53,507 annually and $1.35 billion in capital investment, according to the chamber.
While Mobile has a vibrant downtown area that continues to grow with new and expanding restaurants and other development, neighboring cities, such as Prichard and Saraland, also are making their mark with community initiatives and investment in schools and downtown districts.
Mobile continues to earn kudos for its quality of life. It was ranked No. 10 overall in the Small Cities category by fDi Magazine in its America’s Cities of the Future 2011-12 rankings. IHS Global Insight projected employment in Mobile will grow by 2.07 percent a year between 2010 and 2016, and it also is projected to have the second fastest job growth among Alabama and Gulf Coast metro areas.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.