Manufacturing gains, cheap gasoline and modest housing progress set a promising – if guarded – tone for Mobile’s economy through the close of 2015 and beyond, according to the most recent market outlook released by Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services.
“Mobile is one of the few areas that has more manufacturing jobs now than before the recession. Production jobs were 15 percent higher in mid-2015 than their previous peak in 2008,” PNC Assistant Vice President Mekael Teshome, an economist for the southeastern region, wrote in the third-quarter 2015 forecast for Mobile County.
“Besides the manufacturing jobs that will be created once the facilities are operational, many of the goods and services the company needs could be sourced locally and suppliers moving into Mobile add upside potential to the outlook,” Teshome wrote, adding, “Mobile’s longer-term outlook is more optimistic with payroll growth at least matching the nation’s pace. We expect to see population growth and in-migration normalize over the next few years as the regional economy continues to heal. Low business costs and strong infrastructure networks could attract investment.”
In addition, he noted trade, transportation, finance and professional services should contribute to near-term recovery and the “precipitous decline of energy prices over the past year is an additional benefit that will lower input costs for the region’s manufacturers.”
Moreover, Teshome said lower gas prices mean increased disposable income that should ultimately boost tourism spending because “Alabamians spend a greater than average share of their incomes on gasoline.”
With enough real estate under lease to expand at will, a locally-recruited workforce garnering high praise from veteran European employees and a $600 million final assembly line set to debut as the most efficient in the world, Airbus confirmed Sunday an unyielding commitment to Mobile and the U.S. aircraft market.
“Mobile is our industrial home in the United States … It is not likely at all that we would try to find some other state to go to,” Allan McArtor, chairman and chief executive officer of Airbus Group Inc., said.
Meanwhile, Airbus Americas President Barry Eccleston touted repeatedly the integral role its Mobile operations will play in expanding the planemaker’s global market share to meet escalating demand for single-aisle aircraft, and Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier said the Toulouse, France-based aircraft manufacturer does not just feel welcome in Mobile but “at home.”
The comments were delivered a few hours after media from across the globe were allowed sneak-peak, guided tours of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility, debuting officially at 10 a.m. Monday at an invitation-only ceremony.
The final assembly line – which actually began production quietly on its first two planes a few weeks ago at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley – will focus solely on the commercial jetmaker’s popular A320 family of aircraft.
Airbus Americas spokeswoman Kristi Tucker confirmed the first
of the two A321s under construction will take its first flight in the first quarter of 2016 and is slated for delivery to Jet Blue in the second quarter of 2016. The second A321 glimpsed Sunday in the sprawling final assembly hangar will be delivered to American Airways at a later date.
By the end of this summer, Mobile will look a little different both by air, and on the ground as new retailers like Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and others open up where empty lots once sat vacant. Meanwhile, not too far away — renovations have been made at Pinebrook to attract new shops, — that’s already helped to pull in the first Whole Foods to open up in Lower Alabama. The grocer will be up and running in the fall.
Looking at the number of new building permits for new units, the spike is noticeable.
In 2013 there were just 36 unit requests. In 2014, that went up to 77. And so far in 2015, with 46 requests, the city is potentially on track to beat last year’s number.
“There are a number of new retailers that have come into the market which Mobile has just kind of gotten on the map,” said Merrill Thomas, a commercial broker in Mobile.
Thomas says a lot of it has to do with Airbus and Austal expanding. He tells us vacancy is fairly low, and there’s no sign that it’ll slow down.
“I don’t think this is a bubble at all,” said Thomas.
Thomas expects competition to drive even more business to Mobile, especially brands that have not entered the market. And while the challenge is to keep business staying for the long term, the city says what is key, is keeping up with growth.
“I think Westwood is a good example, they’ve doubled in size, Pinebrook it’s a 1960s shopping center that has seen a dramatic improvement as well,” added Bryne.
And as far as which businesses pick Mobile, Bryne says, demand is currently driving which ones set up shop, so it may only be a matter of time before something you’ve been waiting comes to the area.