It’s been a busy month for the City of Mobile and Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
Alabama’s third-largest city has come a long way from the 1960s and 1970s, when jobs, residents, and investment began to disappear. Over the past decade, Mobile’s economy has seen a strong resurgence, anchored by the manufacturing and tourism industries. This month, Mayor Stimpson and the Port City have notched several big wins.
Airbus assembly plant opens
After more than a decade of political wrangling, Mobile celebrated this month as Airbus opened its $600 million assembly plant at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, south of downtown Mobile.
First announced in 2012, the new 210,000 square-foot facility currently employs more than 250 employees. The first U.S.-made Airbus commercial aircraft – an A321 – is scheduled for delivery in 2016. By 2018, when it reaches full production, the facility will support 1,000 jobs and produce between 40 and 50 single-aisle aircraft per year.
Carnival Cruise Lines to return to Mobile in 2016
Last week, after a unanimous city council vote, Mayor Stimpson made it official: Carnival Cruise Lines will return to the Port City next year. The thirteen-month agreement calls for the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy to undertake 84 cruises from Mobile’s Alabama Cruise Terminal beginning in November 2016.
After undergoing a multi-million dollar refurbishment, the Fantasy will operate four and five-day cruises from Mobile to destinations including Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso.
Carnival previously sailed from Mobile for seven years before pulling out in 2011, leaving the city with no revenue with which to pay the more than $1 million in annual debt payments on the city-owned cruise terminal. Stimpson said at last week’s announcement that bringing Carnival back to Mobile had “been a priority since the day we took office.”
GulfQuest museum opens
This weekend, Mobile unveiled the world’s only maritime museum dedicated to the historical, cultural and economic significance of the Gulf of Mexico. GulfQuest Maritime Museum, located on the downtown Mobile riverfront, provides a hands-on experience at one of the only interactive maritime museums in the United States.
With 90 museum exhibits, a museum store, a museum café, and event space, GulfQuest is a 120,000 square foot building designed to look as if it were a ship headed into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to being a signature attraction for the Gulf Coast, GulfQuest is expected to become a major educational attraction for Mobile and the state of Alabama.
Ten Sixty Five musical festival planned to replace BayFest
Earlier this month, organizers of the longstanding annual BayFest music festival abruptly announced the event cease operations immediately, just three weeks out from the scheduled 2015 event.
Mayor Stimpson, tourism officials, and the business community quickly worked together to fill the void, and TenSixtyFive was born. Spearheaded by Mobile’s DMG Productions and Red Square Agency, the event is billed as “a multi-day, multi-stage party bringing like-minded partygoers together for an unforgettable weekend of food, drinks, music and fun.”
The free event will take place the weekend of October 2, the same weekend that BayFest was planned to take place. Organizers even managed to book George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, who had been scheduled to headline one of BayFest’s main stages.
Downtown ice skating rink
The Mobile City Council also approved Mayor Stimpson’s proposal to place an ice skating rink at Cooper Riverside Park from November 14 through January 12. The cost for the city to rent the portable rink and other equipment will be $132,350, though the Mobile Press-Register reported last week that the Stimpson administration had secured $50,000 in private sponsorships toward the cost. The price for patrons will be $8 per person with a $2 skate rental.
Cooper Riverside Park occupies the space on downtown Mobile’s riverfront between the new GulfQuest Museum and the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center.
Mobile Whole Foods opens
Mayor Stimpson clearly views the presence of a Whole Foods as a status symbol. Speaking last week at the grand opening of Mobile’s new 35,000 square foot store, Stimpson said, “We have a Whole Foods; we are no longer the city of perpetual potential, we are on the move.”
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is a leading natural and organic food retailer. Mobile’s new Whole Foods store is the chain’s second location in Alabama. The company also announced last year it would build a store in Destin, Florida at the Destin Commons; that location is expected to open next spring.