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Spotlight on Mobile County

Old-world storefronts and modern high-rises give downtown Mobile a distinctive feel.

Old-world storefronts and modern high-rises give downtown Mobile a distinctive feel.

Lapped by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with a rich industrial and shipping heritage nourished by Mobile Bay, decked with azaleas and canopied with stately oaks, Mobile County has long been a thriving port serving all of Alabama.

And now the region has taken to the skies with the arrival of the only Airbus assembly plant in the U.S.

Mobile County has long celebrated its roots as the birthplace of the modern Mardi Gras in the U.S., and honors its heritage as a prosperous Southern port of call.

But Mobile County also looks forward, working to attract new industry, sporting events and tourism while preserving a great quality of life. 

While manufacturing declines across much of the U.S., Mobile leads the state and much of the nation in attracting new manufacturing. Mobile has had a 33 percent increase in manufacturing sector jobs in the last five years. 

The county’s strongest manufacturing sectors are shipbuilding and steel. Other key sectors include aviation and aerospace, higher education, the Port of Mobile, chemical and health care. The largest manufacturing employer is Austal, a shipbuilding company with about 4,000 employees. 

The county’s overall largest employer is Mobile County Public Schools, with 7,500 employees. The school system has developed signature academies, offering career path options in fields from business to industry to law. AIDT and the community college system augment job training options with the Alabama Aviation Training Center and the Maritime Training Center. In May, Gov. Kay Ivey announced plans for a new Alabama Aviation Education Center, developed in partnership with Airbus, to encourage young people to consider careers in aviation.Newest major job announcement is a Wal-Mart distribution center, expected to cost $135 million and employ 550 people.

Mobile is home to the University of South Alabama, including its medical school and health care system, as well as Bishop State Community College and several other institutions of higher learning.

The city and private developers are working to attract young people to the area with loft developments, renovations to historic buildings downtown and Innovation PortAL, a new entrepreneurial center. A new multi-family development, Meridian at the Port, will break ground soon. The $42 million project is the largest residential project in the city in 50 years, says Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. And a major federal transportation grant will help pay for infrastructure improvements that include pedestrian pathways throughout the area. 

“We are proud of our city and what we are accomplishing,” Stimpson says. “We are starting to see some of our young people want to move back home.” 

Economic Engines

A Littoral Combat Ship built for the U.S. Navy prepares for launch at Austal USA, Mobile County’s largest industrial employer.
 

Shipbuilding 

Shipbuilding is the largest industry in Mobile County, employing more than 6,500 workers.

With 4,000-plus employees, Austal USA is among Alabama’s largest high-tech manufacturers. It is working on $6.1 billion in military contracts, building up to 13 Littoral Combat Ships and 12 Expeditionary Fast Transport ships for the U.S. Navy; 13 of these ships have already been delivered and placed in service. 

Austal has also invested $400 million in facility development projects. The shipbuilding facility now occupies 164 acres and includes more than a million square feet of manufacturing space. Austal’s Navy contracts support more than 127 suppliers located throughout the state and is responsible for more than 14,800 direct and indirect jobs.

Nearly every type of service for the maritime industry can be found in Mobile, from barge fleeting and dunnage services to salvage, ship chandlery and stevedoring.

Steel 

Companies that make steel number among the largest manufacturing employers in Mobile and continue to invest and expand. A $5.2 billion complex in north Mobile County, comprised of AM/NS Calvert and Outokumpu Stainless USA, employs more than 2,500 people. The steel sector has spurred more than 300 local supplier jobs by companies doing business with the two steel companies. 

Nearby SSAB Americas, which makes steel plate for a variety of uses, has another 580 employees.

Aviation and Aerospace

The city’s aerospace hub, Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley is a 1,650-acre industrial park near downtown Mobile, with a runway capable of landing the world’s largest aircraft. It is also adjacent to one of the nation’s busiest ports and connects to two interstates and five railroads. 

Aviation in the area got a huge boost with Airbus, which located in Mobile a few years ago at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. Airbus has its U.S. final assembly line moving along with about 400 employees so far, with more to come. The company assembles the A320 family of jetliners, most of which will be delivered to North American carriers. 

Assembly began in 2015, and the first completed aircraft was delivered in 2016. The company is poised to deliver four aircraft per month by the end of this year. Airbus also includes an engineering center at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, open now for 10 years — even before the assembly plant became a reality — and the Airbus Group’s North American military customer services operation near the airport. 

VT MAE, which refurbishes aircraft, is the oldest and largest of the major firms, employing more than 1,000 people. Continental Motors Aerospace, which makes aircraft piston engines, recently announced plans for additional manufacturing facilities and a corporate office at the Aeroplex. FedEx recently announced it will build a new facility at the Aeroplex, combining all of its local functions under one roof. 

Others continue to follow. In early 2016, Zodiac Aerospace, which makes aircraft cabins, announced it will locate in Mobile as an Airbus supplier, and MAAS Aviation announced a twin-bay paint facility, also at the Aeroplex. 

The Mobile Regional Airport continues to grow in the number of passengers flying in and out of the city. In March, airport officials reported positive growth for 10 consecutive months, the longest growth streak since the mid-1990s.

 American Airlines recently announced it will upgrade service at the airport, adding 80,000 airline seats to the airline’s Dallas and Charlotte hubs. Delta Airlines and United Airlines also serve the airport. 

Alabama State Port Authority

Alabama’s deepwater seaport, the Port of Mobile, is located just 32 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The Port Authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstates, five Class 1 railroads and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterway connections. 

The port has a major economic impact, generating 124,328 direct and indirect jobs, $459 million in direct, induced and indirect tax impact, and a total economic value of $19.4 billion. The port handles more than 58 million tons port-wide and has a $40 million expansion underway. 

The port is the second largest steel port in the U.S. and the 10th largest port in the nation. It also has one of the largest coal terminals and one of the largest forest products ports in the nation. 

Investments by the Alabama State Port Authority and APM Terminals are paying off. APM Terminals Mobile, which increased container traffic at the port by 19 percent last year, is now preparing for the opening of Wal-Mart’s import distribution center Mobile. 

“Regional manufacturing growth and now landing retail giant Wal-Mart, is strengthening a vision the port launched in 2001 to create state-of-the-art container intermodal facilities to fuel regional investment and jobs creation,” says James Lyons, director and chief executive officer for the Alabama State Port Authority.   

A new $55 million Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, a partnership between the port and APM, opened in June 2016, with the Canadian National/Illinois Central providing direct rail service to Memphis, Kansas City, Decatur and Chicago, as well as Canadian locations. 

Chemical

Two chemical companies are listed among the largest manufacturing companies. Evonik Industries makes consumer products, has about 840 employees and has been in the area more than 40 years. BASF Corp. also is a major employer, with 580 employees. 

Lenzing Fibers has also announced a major expansion of its Axis plant.

The new MAST Initiative — named for McIntosh, Axis, Saraland and Theodore, where most chemical plants are located — is working to recruit newcomers and assist existing companies. 

Higher Education

Campus of the University of South Alabama, shown during the May 2013 graduation ceremony, which marked the 75,000th degree awarded to a USA student.
 

University of South Alabama 

USA is a comprehensive, global research and teaching university. With enrollment of about 16,699, USA offers degree programs in business, the liberal arts, education, engineering, computing, the sciences and health care. There are more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. 

In addition to academics, USA offers a 116,000-square-foot recreation center and more than 200 student organizations and clubs. USA sports teams compete in the Sun Belt Conference. 

Also part of the USA System are the colleges of medicine, nursing and allied health professions and the USA Physicians Group, USA Medical Center, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital and the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute. USA Technology & Research Park has created more than 600 local, private-sector jobs in computer science, information technology and biotechnology.

New to the USA campus are:

  • A Minority Business Accelerator Program, made possible by a $25,000 PNC Bank grant and spearheaded by USA and other community partners
  •  A four-story, 375-bed residence hall for freshmen, under construction and set to open in fall 2018.
  • A $3.5 million renovation in the Science Laboratory Building, creating designated labs for first-year chemistry students.
  • A cross-registration agreement with nearby Spring Hill College to increase course options for students at both schools.

Also, recently, USA renamed its College of Education as the College of Education and Professional Studies, to reflect the wide range of different programs within the school. 

USA also created Global USA, to bring all of its international outreach and engagement programs under one unit with the goal of better serving international students and faculty. 

Spring Hill College 

Founded in 1830, Spring Hill is the oldest institution of higher education in Alabama, the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast and the third oldest Jesuit college in the U.S. Enrollment is just shy of 1,500, with students from 36 states and 11 countries.

Spring Hill works to help students become leaders in service to others. Students and alumni contribute thousands of hours to the local community each year. The vast majority of students live on campus in nine residence halls, and the college guarantees all full-time students on-campus housing for four years. 

Students chose from 46 undergraduate majors and concentrations. The most popular majors cross the spectrum of possibilities: science and math, business, social sciences, communications, fine and performing arts, nursing and teacher education.

It is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

University of Mobile 

The University of Mobile, a Baptist-affiliated institution, offers liberal arts and professional program for about 1,600 students enrolled in its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Christian Ministries, School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Worship Leadership, Center for Performing Arts/School of Music, Adult and Professional Studies, and graduate programs.

In 2016, the school welcomed a new president, Timothy Smith, Ph.D., who is focused on developing partnerships to address workforce needs in the region. The school also announced a major rebranding and logo, “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.” Smith has announced the first phase of a major expansion of new academic programs and degrees. 

In April, the school opened the new Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice. It includes two high-fidelity simulation labs, a health assessment lab and a sports science lab. The new College of Health Professions includes the School of Nursing, new School of Health and Sports Science and School of Allied Health.

Bishop State Community College 

Mobile’s only community college, Bishop State has 3,200 students attending classes at four campuses within the city limits. 

Bishop State offers academic degree programs, dual enrollment and early college for high school students, technical and workforce programs, adult education and GED programs. Working with the Mobile Area Education Foundation, Bishop State has created the 15 to Finish Campaign, which encourages students to take 15 credit hours per semester and thereby improve their chances of graduating.

Recent achievements include: 

  • The campus’ STEM club placed second overall at the inaugural Alabama Mathematics Tournament. 
  • Seven students were awarded NASA Scholars/Fellowship scholarships. 
  • Bishop State was selected as one of the Top 50 Military Friendly Schools for Transportation by G.I. JOBS magazine. 

Bishop State worked with Mobile Chamber’s Growth Alliance Task Force to host workshops for people interested in starting or expanding a small business and is partnering with the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute on a culinary medicine program. 

The school’s Workforce Development Division in 2016-2017 has provided for training workers with MAAS Aviation and Alabama Power’s Plant Barry. Bishop State is working toward similar projects in other industries.

Recently, Bishop State helped host more than 400 area students for the annual Mobile County Water Festival. This festival provided 4th graders with insights on team building, water use awareness, and how local water resources can promote a good quality of life. 

Bishop State has several athletic teams, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool on the main campus allows for training for organizations such as the City of Mobile Swim Association, with training for swimmers who competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. 

Mobile Aviation Center (Enterprise State Community College)

The Alabama Aviation Center is an arm of Enterprise State Community College and is located at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. It offers programs in aviation maintenance and avionics, along with dual enrollment for Mobile and Baldwin county high school students. AIDT also operates the Alabama Maritime Training Center in Mobile, preparing workers for maritime jobs.

Faulkner University - Mobile campus 

Faulkner University, headquartered in Montgomery, has had a Mobile location for more than 30 years. It offers day, evening, weekend and online classes and programs including business administration and management, criminal justice, computer and information science, human resources management and health and rehabilitation psychology. 

Health Care

USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital delivers 2,800 babies a year. 

Infirmary Health Inc.

With five acute care hospitals, two post-acute care facilities, two diagnostic centers, two urgent care clinics a network for physician offices in more than 30 locations, Infirmary Health is the state’s largest non-governmental healthcare system. 

Infirmary Health provides services for residents of 11 counties of South Alabama and the Florida panhandle. It has 700 physicians and 5,000 employees.

Mobile Infirmary is the flagship hospital, with 689 licensed beds and 2,500 employees. Also in Mobile are the J.L. Bedsole/Rotary Rehabilitation Hospital and Infirmary Long Term Acute Care Hospital, as well as diagnostic clinics and physician offices.

The new Infirmary Medical Plaza is slated to open late this year in Saraland, offering physician practices plus lab and imaging services.

Also new at Infirmary Health:

  • A cardiac care procedure room at Mobile Infirmary that combines features of a cardiac catheterization lab with those of an operating room.
  • CARF International accreditations for inpatient rehabilitation programs and stroke care programs at J.L. Bedsole/Rotary Rehabilitation Hospital 
  • Three-year accreditation for the Mobile Infirmary cancer program from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons 
  • Women’s Choice Awards for bariatric surgery, orthopedics, breast center and stroke center at Mobile Infirmary
  • Updated 3-D mammography capabilities.

University of South Alabama Health System   

USA Health, with more than 3,800 employees, consists of the USA College of Medicine, USA Medical Center, USA Physicians Group, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and the Mitchell Cancer Institute. 

The USA College of Medicine, founded in 1973, is the only medical school in the region and one of only two allopathic medical schools in Alabama. Through its relationship with USA Medical Center and USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, the College trains medical students and residents, and the USA College of Medicine trains scientists through its basic medical sciences graduate program.

USA Medical Center, the region’s only Level I trauma center, is an acute care facility with 406 licensed beds, offering specialized care for burns, stroke, cardiovascular disease and sickle cell disease. It also is a teaching and research facility for the USA College of Medicine. 

USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is Mobile’s leading hospital for births, with 2,800 deliveries annually. The hospital also offers the area’s only neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. It also offers comprehensive services for women, including special medical care for high-risk pregnancies. 

In 2014, Children’s & Women’s Hospital opened a 200,000-square-foot, $72 million expansion that doubled the hospital’s size and expanded services. 

USA Mitchell Cancer Institute opened in 2000 to increase Gulf Coast cancer survival rates through advanced treatment and research. The first academic cancer research institute in the upper Gulf Coast region, Mitchell is the largest single research endeavor in the history of the university. It offers local and regional patients a powerful combination of research, treatment and access to clinical trials. In 2008, Mitchell Cancer Institute opened a 125,000-square-foot integrated clinical and research facility. It also has offices in Monroeville and Fairhope, and the 14,000-square-foot Kilborn Clinic is slated to open there this year.

Comprised of 181 academic physicians on faculty at the USA College of Medicine, USA Physicians Group is the region’s largest multi-specialty practice and the only academic physicians group along the central Gulf Coast. Its practitioners provide the majority of inpatient care for USA Health at both USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and USA Medical Center.

The USA System recently opened the Strada Patient Care Center, located on 14 acres of the USA Health Midtown Campus near Children’s & Women’s Hospital and the Mitchell Cancer Institute. The 133,000-square-foot Strada Center will house general pediatrics and pediatric specialty practices, as well as key services for adults ranging from mammography to obstetrics and gynecology to orthopaedic surgery.

Providence Hospital

Founded in 1854 and based in Mobile, Providence Hospital offers 349 beds and comprehensive healthcare for emergency, cardiovascular, cancer, orthopedics, obstetrics and surgical services, as well as an outpatient diagnostic center and a freestanding rehabilitation and wellness center. 

Inpatient admissions in fiscal year 2016 totaled more than 15,000 plus more than 95,000 outpatient visits and nearly 50,000 emergency room visits. Providence is part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the United States and the world’s largest Catholic health system. 

Providence Hospital has been consistently designated a Blue Distinction Center by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama for spine surgery and hip and knee replacement surgeries. 

Providence offers a full range of diagnostic and treatment services for a variety of heart conditions. The staff of heart experts includes nearly 50 cardiologists, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, and cardiac electrophysiologists. Three cardiac catheterization labs, two cardiac electrophysiology suites and two dedicated heart surgery suites provide a fully-equipped, high tech setting for the thousands of heart procedures each year. 

Providence Hospital consistently earns “Gold” status in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s standards for heart failure care.

The hospital’s rehabilitation and wellness center was recently refurbished and renamed the Beth M. Rouse Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, after long-time board member and local attorney Beth Rouse.  

Providence Medical Group also offers a network of primary care and specialty physicians with more than 20 locations across South Alabama and Southern Mississippi and 70 physicians from specialties including family medicine, internal medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, general surgery, radiation oncology and more.  

Springhill Medical Center 

Springhill Medical Center, with 1,100 employees, is a 263-bed acute care hospital accredited by The Joint Commission. Since 1975, Springhill has grown and expanded its services in southwest Alabama while maintaining more nurses per patient for a personal approach and 1-to-1 nurse/patient ratio for childbirth services.

Today SMC includes the hospital, a comprehensive heart center, senior residence, cancer center, athletic club, orthopaedic surgery center, sleep medicine center, wound care and hyperbaric medicine, newly renovated labor and delivery suites, a newly expanded Emergency Department. It is the only hospital in the Mobile area with all emergency department physicians board certified in emergency medicine.

In 2015, Springhill completed a $3.7 million update of its maternity unit, plus upgrade and expansion of the emergency department. The hospital also has a new inpatient rehabilitation program. 

Surgical procedures at Springhill include options of using the da Vinci Xi surgical robot or the Stryker Mako Robotic-Arm for knee and hip replacement procedures.

Students from 50 area schools participated in a BEST Robotics Day at the hospital recently.

AltaPointe Health Systems 

AltaPointe Health Systems is Alabama’s largest behavioral healthcare organization and the only provider of comprehensive psychiatric services in south Alabama. A not-for-profit corporation, AltaPointe oversees a community-based, behavioral healthcare continuum for residents of Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties in the Mobile Bay region. It also serves Clay, Coosa, Randolph and Talladega counties in east central Alabama. 

Under CEO Tuerk Schlesinger’s leadership since 1998, the organization has grown from employing 277 to 1,450, increasing its annual budget from $17 million to $84 million, and from serving an average of 7,000 individuals each year to more than 30,000 in 2016.  

AltaPointe provided 1.4 million services in 2016, with depression, mood disorder, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse as the top five diagnoses treated.

It offers 16 outpatient facilities, two private counseling facilities, 26 adult residential facilities, nine adult foster homes, two adolescent residential facilities and two free-standing psychiatric hospitals.  

In Mobile County, it operates BayPointe Hospital, a psychiatric hospital located in west Mobile with 60 acute beds for children and adolescents. 

Housed in the same facility are the 34-bed BayPointe Children’s Residential Treatment Center and the LeMoyne School, a day treatment program specially designed to help children with emotional and behavioral problems. Funded by the Mobile County Public School System, LeMoyne provides a therapeutic classroom environment and structured day treatment setting for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

Community Development

Downtown Mobile’s entertainment district lights up the night. 

Mobile County

For the 16th consecutive time, Mobile County voters approved renewal of the county’s Pay-As-You-Go Transportation Improvement tax, which originated in 1977. Mobile is the only county in the state with such a funding mechanism for road and bridge improvements with no borrowed money. 

Mobile County’s $48 million portion of the tax will be matched with $61 million in federal funds to pay for 68 miles of new and improved roads. 

The county’s new $10 million Emergency Operations Center is underway, with an expected completion date of spring 2018. It will replace a 60-year-old structure located on McGregor Road. The EOC houses the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency. The new EOC will have four times the space, with 78 work stations in a 31,000-square-foot building. 

The county in 2014 opened a drop-off recycling center for household recyclables and is on target to recycle 7 million pounds of material by the end of fiscal year 2017. The program is operated by Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast and was built without county funds.  

Over the past three years, the Mobile County Commission has contributed more than $1.9 million in funding for local schools. Mobile County Public School System is finishing a $100 million construction initiative that includes a new $25 million Citronelle High School, a new Chastang-Fournier K-8 School, renovations to Barton Academy and restoration of Murphy High School after a 2012 tornado, says Superintendent Martha Peek. 

The school system is creating a 12-month K-5 school to help parents who need that option, and career academies at all 12 high schools. Academies offer programs from advanced manufacturing to pre-law, with transportation so students can attend the academy of their choice.

“We have really been ahead of the curve with school choice,” Peek says. “Our focus is to provide parents with school options.” The school system also offers early college with the University of Alabama, a virtual academy, magnet schools, pre-kindergarten programs and more. 

City of Mobile 

With hundreds of jobs flowing in with announcements from Airbus and Wal-Mart distribution and others, there is a need to maintain and keep up with growth, says Mayor Sandy Stimpson. The One Mobile project, a major transportation and infrastructure improvement initiative, is underway. In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city a $14.5 million grant to rebuild aging infrastructure, connect citizens to jobs and revitalize historic neighborhoods. 

The project will reconstruct the Broad-Beauregard corridor, connect residents to employment centers like the Aeroplex, and a greenway from Langan Park on the west to Mobile Bay.

Many of the city’s infrastructure plans have stemmed from its capital improvement plan, Stimpson says. In fact, a three-year, $63 million repair and infrastructure improvement program throughout the city, along with the TIGER grant and the greenway, adds up to about $100 million being spent on improvements throughout the city. 

Mobile also has plans to transform Water Street downtown including striping, traffic signalization, landscaping and gateway design.  

Downtown, many companies and developers have built or renovated buildings into lofts and new offices. A new apartment complex, Meridian at the Port, a $46.5 million, 264-unit project on Water Street will be underway soon, the largest residential project in downtown Mobile in 50 years, Stimpson says. The city approved tax incentives for the project.

And, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Innovation PortAL entrepreneurial and innovation center facility is underway in Mobile’s St. Louis Street “technology corridor.” The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the chamber a $2.9 million grant to renovate a building. 

Retail updates include a new development, McGowin Park, with stores such as Costco and Field & Stream. The former Bel Air Mall is now The Shoppes at Bel Air, and the Westwood Plaza has been renovated. 

South Alabama’s first location of At Home, a home decor big box retailer, opened in February 2017 in a 114,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Kmart. The Ambassador Plaza property, leased by White-Spunner Realty, brought at least 25 new jobs to the area and filled a prime retail spot in west Mobile.

“Our business was up three-fold last year from 2015,” said Matt White, president of White-Spunner Realty in Mobile, attributing the success to location and national leadership. “We see our business increasing another 30 percent this year as a result of this leadership.”

“The attitude of Mobillians has been more optimistic than in decades,” Mayor Stimpson says. “They are excited about what’s going on and are proud to promote the city. We also want to see young people move back home.” 

City of Saraland 

Saraland in north Mobile County is in the middle of a very prosperous time, says the mayor, Dr. Howard Rubenstein. The city’s school system has doubled in enrollment and the city keeps attracting new retail and housing growth. 

ATRIP grants have provided $5 million for new road projects and $8 million for expansion of an interstate exit and widening roads to help relieve traffic congestion. Hundreds of new homes are either under construction or on the drawing board. The city also acquired a former shopping center to be renovated for mixed retail/high end rental as a town center development. 

The city is working with ALDOT to help beautify U.S. 43, where many older businesses are located. It will include bike paths and more sidewalks. The city is upgrading parks and built a $2 million youth community center, partially financed by Community Development Block Grant funds.  

Infirmary Health Systems began construction of medical facilities that will include a clinic, outpatient diagnostics with MRI, CT and digital mammography. A 24-hour, free-standing emergency room and hospital are in the planning stages.

The Saraland city school system is the biggest reason for the city’s growth, Rubenstein says. Superintendent Aaron Milner points to residents approving a 7.5-mill property tax increase to fund about $20 million in building projects. 

“Saraland City Schools was recently recognized as one of 16 school districts in Alabama eligible to receive an A, based on parameters for the state’s pending A-F school report card system,” Milner says. “Most importantly, our students continue to earn more in scholarships and receive numerous other accolades.” 

City of Citronelle

The city is adding a splash pad and improving its youth baseball and softball facility, says Mayor Jason Stringer. It also will make improvements to another park with softball fields, basketball courts and a playground. 

Dauphin Island

Bounded on the north by the Mississippi Sound and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is about 14 miles long and is peppered with small bays, inlets and bayous. 

Dauphin is known for its popular public beaches, which the city is constantly improving and maintaining. 

Dauphin Island recently applied for a $4 million grant from the Restore Act money generated by fines and settlements levied against BP after its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The town wants to develop a portion of 100 acres on Dauphin Island’s Aloe Bay for a public fishing pier, restrooms, an elevated boardwalk, parking, bike paths and a gazebo. It will also allow commercial fishermen renewed waterfront access to the historically vibrant bay, says Mayor Jeff Collier.

Dauphin Island also is known as the “Birdiest Small Coastal Community in America” by the National Audubon Society. The town is home to a 137-acre bird sanctuary, considered “globally important” in bird migrations.

Culture and Recreation

GulfQuest 

Welcome Center
Start your visit to Mobile at the Visit Mobile Welcome Center, located in the History Museum of Mobile. There you will find knowledgeable volunteers, area brochures, maps and other visitor information to help you make the most of your visit to historic Mobile.

African-American Heritage Trail 
History comes alive on the Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail. Tours highlight Mobile’s culturally diverse heritage by linking historic contributions and events with significant locations. Forgotten chapters of history are remembered through the stories and stops, including the point on the Mobile River where the last slave ship, The Clotilda, landed on American shores; historic Africatown; the site of Mobile’s slave auction house; The African American Archives; churches; schools; private homes and businesses.

GulfQuest
GulfQuest, National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, is the first museum dedicated to the Gulf Coast’s rich maritime traditions. Interactive exhibits bring the maritime world to life in this museum that stands like a full-size container ship on Mobile’s waterfront.

Mardi Gras 
Mobile prides itself on hosting the nation’s oldest Mardi Gras festival and celebrates with weeks of parades featuring marching bands and brilliantly-colored floats. Catch some beads, moon pies or doubloons tossed from passing floats. On the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, Mobile celebrates Joe Cain Day, honoring the man who reinitiated Mardi Gras celebrations after the Civil War.

History Museum of Mobile
The best place to get the most comprehensive look at how Mobile has come to be one of the most influential cities along the Gulf Coast over the last several hundred years.  Exhibits, displays and artifacts are housed in a stunning building that once served as the city’s town hall and market.

Mobile Carnival Museum 
Crowns, scepters, floats, jeweled robes and more are displayed in this unique museum, housed in a historic home in downtown Mobile. 

Mobile Museum of Art
The Mobile Museum of Art in Langan Park is the largest art museum along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Tampa. The 95,000-square-foot facility houses a permanent collection with more than 10,000 works of art spanning more than 2,000 years of culture, as well as traveling exhibitions and regional art exhibits. 

Alabama Contemporary Art Center
Founded in 1999, Alabama Contemporary Art Center is a non-profit contemporary arts center located on Cathedral Square in the heart of Mobile’s historic downtown district. It is a pivotal force in contemporary art for the Southeast, marshaling global talent. 

Five Rivers Delta Center 
Five Rivers is located where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Appalachee and Blakeley rivers join to create Mobile Bay. It’s known for outdoor recreation, conservation, education programs and land stewardship. 

Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab 
Exciting visual displays and fun interactive exhibits highlight the wonders of Mobile’s estuary system.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home
​Bellingrath Gardens and Home in south Mobile County, a 65-acre Southern estate garden that attracts 125,000 visitors each year, is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the completion of the Bellingrath Home, a 15-room, 10,500-square-foot house designed by famed architect George B. Rogers. Special events are held seasonally, including a Magic Christmas in Lights show. 

Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center & IMAX Theater 
Mobile’s premier hands-on, minds-on science and family fun museum offers exhibits, interactive labs, virtual theater and an IMAX Dome Theater. 

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park 
The park includes the Battleship USS Alabama and Submarine USS Drum, along with dozens of historic aircraft. It is one of the state’s most visited attractions.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove 
Magnolia Grove was voted into Golf World Magazine’s Reader Choice Top 50 Public Courses. The courses include creeks, marshland and lakes, with a forest of hardwood and pine. The Falls and Crossings courses are listed as two of the nation’s Great Value Courses. 

Senior Bowl 
This game features the country’s best senior collegiate football stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams representing the North and South, led by NFL coaches. 

Dollar General Bowl
The Dollar General Bowl is played each year at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and features teams from the Sun Belt Conference and the Mid-American Conference. It is televised nationally. 

Historic Sightseeing Tours
There’s a lot to see in Mobile and a variety of ways to see it. Vendors offer tours by private van or car, motorcoach, historic trolley, pontoon boat, airboat, Duck boat, pedicab or Segway — or opt to tour on your own two feet.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She is based in Birmingham. 

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