South / Regional Reports

Resilient Mobile Looks To the Future

January 11, 2001
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MOBILE, AL — The news wasn’t good for the labor market in Mobile. A recent announcement by International Paper that it was shutting down its operations left a lot of people in this southern Alabama community wondering where they’d find new work — 790 people to be exact. But the people of Mobile are a resilient bunch, and they will find other ways to make a living.

On the heels of the bad news came some good news, too. A new company will be opening up shop soon in nearby Theodore, with the potential for up to 300 new jobs for area residents. The Bredero Price Co., which applies coatings to steel pipe used by deepwater oil drillers to transport oil and natural gas, is building a new plant in Mobile. And with U.S. government reports showing deepwater drilling in the Western Gulf waters up 55% between 1992 and 1999, there seems to be optimism that Mobile will continue to grow.

That’s good for people like Rick True, Jane Harmon, and Ronnie Head Sr. All three are at the helm of hvacr companies, and they see a bright future for the local business climate. True, general manager for Batchelor’s Mechanical Contractors, Inc./ Comfort Systems USA and Harmon and Head, co-owners at Head’s Heating & Air Condition-ing Service, typify the resilience and optimism of the area and their industry.

The closing of U.S. Paper puts even more emphasis on attracting tourists to the area. Each year the city hosts the Senior Bowl, showcasing college football’s outstanding senior players. But the area has other appeal, too.

“The Gulf Shores area is a pretty big tourist attraction because of the beaches,” said True. “New Orleans is also only 120 miles away. But Mobile has never been a big growth area. A big employer used to be an Air Force base but it closed during the Johnson administration and really devastated the area.”

Hurricane Frederick also devastated the area in 1979. Its wrath had an up side. “A lot of a/c units had to be replaced after Frederick came through,” said Head. “Hurricanes can be good for some things and bad for others.”

Head sees good growth in the area’s future, with the Mobile population spreading out toward his community of Theodore. It seems he will be “in the right place at the right time.”

Publication date: 01/15/2001

Web date: 06/18/2001

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