State of the County Address 2019

May 21, 2019

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Mobile County: Where Vision + Teamwork = Success

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am very honored to be with you again this year representing the Mobile County Commission for our 2019 State of the County address. First, it is my pleasure to recognize my Commission colleagues, Commissioners Merceria Ludgood and Jerry Carl. Commissioners, please stand.

I would also like to take the opportunity recognize the officials from all of our Mobile County Agencies. Please stand and remain standing as I call your name: Sheriff Sam Cochran, Revenue Commissioner Kim Hastie, License Commissioner Nick Matranga, County Treasurer Phil Benson and Probate Judge Don Davis.

Thank you Mayor Stimpson for your comments here today and for the job that you and the members of the Mobile City Council do in representing the City of Mobile. I'd also like to acknowledge all of the Mayors and Councilmembers representing Mobile County Municipalities and Tribal Chief Lebarron Byrd of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. Please stand also and be recognized.

This past year has seen continued growth and progress throughout Mobile County, from economic development successes to enhanced public services and planning for major capital and infrastructure improvements.

Our progress is only achieved through a combination of vision and teamwork. As Andrew Carnegie once said, "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives."

And in Mobile County, we are committed to the vision of improving the quality of life for all our citizens by providing improved public services, better infrastructure and recreational amenities, by protecting public health and safety, by creating a robust economy that generates jobs, by conserving and protecting our environment, and by strengthening our partnerships with schools, volunteers and public agencies. We are strongly committed to this shared vision and to the teamwork that's required to make it a reality.

By every measure, 2018 was a banner year in economic development for Mobile County. Working with our Team Mobile partners at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Mobile, the Mobile Airport and Port Authorities, our institutions of higher education and workforce development and also with the Alabama Department of Commerce, Mobile County has taken the lead in Alabama's manufacturing growth with over 18,000 workers employed in our advanced manufacturing sector, a 27% growth increase since 2010.

We saw Walmart's 2.5 million square-foot Distribution Center become operational with 650 jobs, along with Amazon's Sortation Center adding another 1,400 part-time jobs.

We were thrilled when Airbus announced the addition of a new Final Assembly Line for the production of their A220 regional jets. Once operational, Mobile's Airbus facility will be the fourth largest commercial airline manufacturing hub in the world. And as a reminder, less than ten years ago Mobile County was not yet even in the aircraft manufacturing business.

Kimberly-Clark announced significant expansion plans with a $100 million investment, and Continental Motors is currently building their international corporate headquarters at Brookley.

Already on the horizon this year, we've seen Kemira Water Solutions move forward with plans to invest $70 million to expand their polymer plant, and MTC Logistics will invest $58 million in a cold storage facility at the Brookley Aeroplex.

The financial base of our community, which directly contributes to our economic vitality and quality of life, is supported by the economic development investments that we've made and the jobs that these investments have created and continue to create.

But, Mobile County's success in 2018 goes well beyond economic development and jobs creation. Our progress is multi-faceted and strongly reflects our commitment to protecting the environment, improving our parks and recreational opportunities, helping schools, supporting cultural venues, and improving infrastructure and public safety.

Nowhere does vision and teamwork represent success better than with Mobile County's Pay-As-You-Go Road Improvement Program. Our thanks to all of you who again supported this program on last November's ballot. That support will allow us to build or improve 73 miles of County roads and bridges, including 48 miles located within our 11 municipalities.

The $60 million in Pay-As-You-Go funding will leverage federal grant funds for a total of $89.3 million in road improvements. Since 1977, nearly three quarters of a billion dollars have been allocated to road and bridge projects throughout Mobile County thanks to the Pay-As-You Go Program and our team of dedicated staff members whose planning expertise is absolutely essential to this process.

Public safety in Mobile County continues to be a top priority for the Mobile County Commission and another area where collaborative partnerships are essential to addressing safety and security needs within our community.

Over $15 million was allocated to the Mobile Metro Jail in 2017 for upgrades which are currently underway and include a new infirmary, improvements to the Sally Port and booking area, and housing for special needs inmates. Also, a video visitation area and a new security camera system are two security measures that were added in 2018.

Construction on the new $4.2 million Community Corrections Center funded by the County Commission will be finished later this year. Community Corrections, provides community based alternatives to incarceration and tailors sentencing to an offender's crime and rehabilitative needs.

At Mobile Government Plaza, you may have noticed that steel security bollards were recently installed on the perimeter of the Plaza adjacent to Government Street. The bollards, recommended in a study by Homeland Security, create a physical barrier to the building in the event of vehicular impact.

And, in an effort to be responsive to rising reports of dogs that are injuring residents and damaging property in unincorporated areas of the County, the Mobile County Commission adopted a state law prohibiting dogs from roaming at-large and allowing Animal Control officers to issue citations to their owners.

Mobile County has long been committed to supporting environmental protection and ensuring conservation of water and other natural resources. To date, the County has acquired over 2,000 acres of land to preserve and protect our water resources.

An added benefit of our preservation efforts is more public recreational access to miles of shoreline along Mobile Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and our rivers, lakes, and bayous. Our vision includes providing better opportunities for citizens to enjoy safe, affordable, and healthy recreational pursuits in our parks and waterways. These efforts also position Mobile County to better market itself for nature-based tourism.

Conservation funds derived through the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), generated from Alabama's offshore oil and gas leases, will play a major role in helping to fulfill our objective.

These funds, along with RESTORE ACT money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will assist the County in a 3-year initial expenditure plan that develops a needs assessment for County parks accessible to waterways and shoreline, and provides for land acquisition, conservation efforts, and recycling and storm surge monitoring.

I am very pleased and excited that the Commission recently purchased the Escatawpa Hollow Campground, a 45-acre site on the Escatawpa River, within District 2 in west Mobile County. Preliminary plans are to renovate and expand camping facilities, add walking trails, and improve river access as part of the Blueway Paddle Trail for canoeing and kayaking.

In the south part of the County, Commissioner Carl has focused National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) funding derived from the BP oil spill to be used for shoreline restoration and living shoreline projects at the County-owned SaltAire Community Preserve, and GOMESA funds will assist in developing Memories Fish Camp on Fowl River into a boat launch.

An $11.3 million Sediment Reduction Project funded through the RESTORE Act will also reduce the number of unpaved roads affected by erosion in the south part of the County.

And in District 1 in north Mobile County, Commissioner Ludgood is supporting improvements at Chickasabogue Park, including a new park administration building and improvements to walking trails to accommodate the elderly, baby strollers and wheelchairs.

Our commitment to preserving and restoring our coast and waterways is only realized through the teamwork of the Commissioners, our Environmental Services and Parks and Recreation Department professionals, and our entire staff of employees who are dedicated to the vision of protecting our land and water resources and enhancing outdoor recreational opportunities for all of our citizens.

And speaking of enhancing outdoor recreational opportunities, I'm very pleased to announce that Phase 1 construction of the Mobile County Soccer Complex, located off Hall's Mill Road near the intersection of I-10 and I-65, is finally underway and should be completed by January of 2020. This 7-year project is proof positive that patience and persistence really do prevail! The project's first phase includes two tournament quality sodded and lighted fields and two practice fields.

It also features an environmentally-friendly permeable parking lot. When all phases are completed, the complex will provide 10 lighted soccer fields including a championship field with bleachers, shade structures, and concessions and restroom buildings.

The Mobile United Futbol Club, an organization dedicated to the sport of soccer, has graciously agreed to manage and operate this County-owned facility. Many thanks to them for their partnership and to everyone who believed in and supported this project throughout the years.

Renovations to several city-owned parks in District 1 are also high profile County projects, with construction that includes a new football field and scoreboard, restroom facilities, press box and concession stand at the recently re-opened Mt. Vernon Park, new bleachers, sidewalks and pavilions at Davis Park in Citronelle, and construction of a splash pad and sidewalks at High Pointe Park in Prichard.

In addition, Commissioner Ludgood has championed the County's leasing of the Davis Avenue Branch Library, which was built during the segregation era, in order to develop it as a cultural venue and repository for archives from the Mobile Beacon, Alabama's oldest black-owned newspaper, which closed recently.

Commissioner Carl has been busy in District 3 overseeing upgrades to Oddfellows Park in the Grand Bay/Bayou La Batre area and, in addition, supporting youth athletic programs including the Theodore Athletic Association and the West Mobile Blackhawks.

He has also been working very closely with Citizens for A Better Grand Bay and Friends of the Grand Bay Library to renovate the historic Grand Bay State Bank building for use as a regional public library, technology center and agricultural museum.

In District 2, the plans for expansion of the Semmes Senior Center will move forward as the project is rebidding this month. The expansion will add 2,200 square-feet of much needed space for center activities and functions, as well as additional parking.

Our vision for Mobile County is one of improved environmental stewardship that sharply focuses on recycling initiatives and encourages citizens to help address the growing litter problem pervasive in our community.

One such initiative is our Love Your Community on-going anti-litter campaign, sponsored by my office in partnership with Keep Mobile Beautiful and the Alabama Coastal Heritage Trust. The Love Your Community Campaign encourages community groups to become stakeholders and adopt public areas around their neighborhoods, businesses, churches or schools to keep clean and litter-free. To date, more than 500 citizens have joined the effort.

We're honored that Mobile County received the 2018 Norman J. Walton, Sr. Award for the Love Your Community Program from the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission. The annual award recognizes a member local government who best exemplifies intergovernmental cooperation and the promotion of regionalism in South Alabama.

Our Mobile County Recycling Center, operating in partnership with Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast, continues to be highly successful with over 2.8 million pounds of recyclables processed in 2018.

Public response to the County's Operation Clean Sweep program that offers citizens the opportunity to dispose of unwanted household items, tires and yard debris has been nothing short of phenomenal. Vehicle visits at each of these Saturday events average a thousand or more.

Mobile County, in so many ways, is truly the land of opportunity, and we believe that the foundation of our community and the future of our economy is directly tied to an educated and trained workforce. One of the greatest investments that we can make to ensure continued economic progress is to establish a workforce with the education and skills necessary to keep business and industry growing in Mobile County.

This past year, Commissioners have contributed well over $1.2 million in funds to support education in Mobile County with resources for Public Schools that include technology upgrades, library resources, playground equipment, covered walkways and music education. Commissioner Ludgood and I continue to support the Mobile Symphony Orchestra sponsored Preludes and Strings music programs in our respective district schools.

District 2 has actively sponsored programs and educational exhibits at the Mobile Botanical Gardens, the Mobile Museum of Art and the Exploreum Science Center, and Commissioner Ludgood continues to advocate support for summer internship and job readiness programs for high school and college students.

Commissioner Carl has helped to address physical needs at three of his district schools, to include a playground for disabled children, handicapped parking and a covered handicapped walkway.

Additionally, this past year, the Mobile County Commission provided financial support to the new Airbus Flight Works Alabama Aviation Experience Center, an interactive exhibition designed to teach visitors about the inner-workings of aircraft and to inspire young people to pursue careers in aerospace.

The County also provided $2.5 million to sponsor construction of the University of South Alabama's Center for Academic Success at their new Hancock-Whitney Football Stadium, and supported the Barton Academy Foundation to preserve a historic landmark in creating The Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies, an innovative educational institution and an engine for economic growth.

Legendary National Football League Coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Individual commitment to a group effort - that's what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."

And Mobile County does work very successfully because of the shared commitment and teamwork of the Mobile County Commission, our employees, our county agencies and community partners in achieving the vision of a brighter future and better quality of life for all of our citizens.

Thank you so much for joining us today. At this time, I'd like to present our 2019 video that highlights Mobile County: where vision plus teamwork equals success!


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