2017 State of the City

Think about it!  The population in Mobile hasn’t grown in over 50 years! For years, the City had been losing the race, lagging behind our peer cities despite the fact that we had the talent to win. The city’s cheering section, which is its citizens, had grown quiet—until something changed. Slowly at first, Motivated Mobilians became more engaged and started creating momentum all across the city. One of those individuals is Lynn Oldshue who created a video which tells the story.

Metaphorically, when applied to sports teams, momentum means the team is on a roll – a winning streak. Building upon our past economic development successes and our downtown revitalization, today, we are a more exciting city, one that is on the pathway to its destiny.  We are becoming a fun city – a place with fun things for you and our visitors to do; a place with multiple great dining experiences. Visit Mobile will build upon this as it tees up to double the number of visitors to the city. Just as the momentum can shift in a sporting event based on one play, Mobile’s momentum started gaining speed as more Mobilians started engaging in improving our city, and as they started talking enthusiastically about the great things happening.

In the beginning only a handful believed that we could unite as One Mobile to become the safest, most business and family friendly City in America by 2020. Today there are tens of thousands, both in and outside of the city, who think we’re heading in the right direction.

Our Build Mobile team brainstorming with the Innovation Team.

To become business-friendly, we started cutting red tape three years ago, and we’re still cutting it.  Two years ago, we started the City’s first robust, proactive Supplier Diversity program. And last year, we established Build Mobile as a City department to lay the foundation to serve everyone who wants to do business, create jobs and grow Mobile.   The Build Mobile team has already made major strides, but those strides in improvement will become gigantic steps over the summer as we complete the implementation of the Tyler software system and launch an online permitting application process that will provide customers more accessibility and transparency.

Welcoming back the Carnival Fantasy.

These changes combined with many others have signaled to companies that Mobile is open for business.  Last year, Carnival made its triumphant return and is now making weekly excursions from Mobile, all of which are filled to capacity.   Airbus delivered its first plane made in Mobile to JetBlue and closed out 2016 by delivering its 17th plane – one more than their goal for the year.   To date we have announced that 19 aerospace suppliers have located at Brookley.

Commissioner Ludgood and I celebrating after the Walmart Distribution Center announcement.

Recently, Walmart announced that its sixth import distribution center would be built in Mobile.  In and of itself this is huge. However, after building a similar distribution center in Savanah, 52 other companies followed suit. Surely, it’s just a matter of time before others will be announced in Mobile.

Our focus on becoming a destination for IT-based entrepreneurship has not gone unnoticed. Late last year, the White House named Mobile a TechHire Community — a designation given to cities committed to connecting its citizens to well-paying tech jobs.  Mobile is only one of 72 communities across the United States to receive this prestigious designation. When combined with our Advanced Manufacturing Community Designation, we are one of only 16 cities in America which have both designations by the US Department of Commerce.

Just a couple weeks ago, we hosted a delegation of top technology executives from Silicon Valley including founders and chief executives representing Reddit, iCracked, Bellhop, Weebly, Arka, and Fuel Capital.  The outcome of their interested in Mobile is hard to predict, but they were blown away by what we are doing and by our hospitality.  More will surely follow.Innovation and technology are two of the key pillars in our plan to create high-paying jobs in Mobile.  In this pursuit, City government will continue to be a facilitator and convener and work vigorously to create a city where smart, talented young people want to live.  We will embrace the culture of innovation just as we have embraced advanced manufacturing.

Leading the Silicon Valley executives on a tour of Mobile.

To become family-friendly, we had to improve the quality of life in Mobile. With leadership from our Bloomberg Innovation Team, we began understanding the process of revitalizing our neighborhoods. Because of their work, Mobile achieved a 12 percent reduction of blight in 2016, which will ultimately result in safer neighborhoods and increased property values across the city.

Crews pouring concrete for new sidewalks.

Through collaboration with the City Council, we spent $21 million on fixing broken infrastructure and improving our parks.  Mothers and fathers can finally push baby strollers down smooth sidewalks, and youth finally have access to better and more recreational opportunities. Just last week, after 30 years of being a dream, we finally broke ground on the Mobile Greenway—the  next step towards creating a 12 mile biking and walking path which will connect Langan Park to Downtown Mobile and Mobile Bay.

Breaking ground on the Three Mile Creek Trail.

Additionally, last year, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the City a $14.5 million Tiger grant that will connect to the Mobile Greenway and reconnect divided neighborhoods by creating bike and pedestrian lanes and landscaped medians. The initial design for this transformational, family friendly transportation project has begun.

The road to becoming the safest city has been the most challenging. After years of grossly underpaying our first responders, our police officers and firefighters finally received significant pay raises for their service.  Our officers are no longer driving worn out police cars. Our paramedics are driving new emergency sprint trucks and new ambulances.  And, our firefighters have safer, more modern gear plus new fire trucks.

We continue to transform our criminal justice system to ensure that we are punishing crime, not penalizing poverty. Our changes to Mobile’s Municipal Court system have been hailed by the Department of Justice as a model for the state and nation.

Announcing the Youth Empowered for Success initiative.

While the rise in teenage homicide is a national trend, we want Mobile to be the trendsetter that finally puts an end to these senseless tragedies. In January, we launched the YES Initiative – Youth Empowered for Success.  Our plan is to reverse the effects of violence and secure a bright future for all of our children.The YES initiative provides our most vulnerable youth access to available resources to assist in life and job skills training, and employment opportunities.  As this pilot program grows, we will reverse the trend of youth violence in Mobile and empower our youth to succeed in life.

Mobile continues to increase its momentum. Last Friday we announced a new Fire Chief.  On Monday, we announced a way for our police officers to spend more time on major crime issues.  Yesterday, we announced a partnership to connect our youth to jobs this summer in Gulf Shores.  Tomorrow, we will break ground on a new fire station in Crichton.   And on Friday, we will establish a new location for the 2nd Precinct bringing law enforcement closer to the community it serves in the Tillman’s Corner area.

Breaking ground on the new fire station.

It has been suggested that maybe we should rest on the 7th day.  Rest?? – maybe! but we will never stop thinking about or seeking ways to improve our city – every aspect of it and every part of it.

At the beginning of my remarks I asked you to think about it – to think about how Mobile has been for the last 50 years. No growth, but surrounded by growth. Now I ask you to think about the last 3 years and the momentum you have created.  I ask you to think about all that the City Council has accomplished. They care. They listen. Their hard work and your hard work combined with our collaboration with regional, state and national stakeholders and leaders has put Mobile right on the cusp of true transformation and growth. We’ll continue to take risks and try new things if it means a safer city; if it means more jobs; if it means a cleaner and greener Mobile.

Not only are we catching up with other cities, we are passing them. We are leading the pack in court reform, community policing, repairing infrastructure. The state of the city is sound and getting better. God willing and we live, we will eventually lead the state in job growth and population growth.  One Mobile will happen.

Joe Cain leading a second line on the new Celebration Trail.

Citizens aren’t just cheering us on anymore. They’re running with us – opening new businesses, mentoring and hiring youth and cleaning up our City. There are no try-outs to join Team Mobile. We have no plans to slow down. In fact, we’re picking up the pace. We have found strength in numbers, and as our momentum grows, so will our community.  As we do so, you will have opportunities that can’t even be envisioned. Your property values will increase, your businesses will grow, and your children will start moving back home because this is where they choose to live.

I don’t know if you picked up on the last lines of the video, but it said – “Mobile’s potential depends on you. Her potential depends on us. This city is ours and the best of us is still to come.”  Think about it! Let’s go get ‘em!

City streamlines procurement process to include diverse suppliers

by Archnique Kidd, Supplier Diversity Manager

archnique kiddA year ago, Mayor Stimpson established the City of Mobile’s very first Supplier Diversity Program to specifically help minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) overcome challenges that make it more difficult to win contracts and work on City of Mobile projects. To implement this new program, he established two new roles within the City: Chief Procurement Officer and the Supplier Diversity Manager. He first selected Don Rose, formerly with the United States Coast Guard and the Bay Area Food Bank, as the Chief Procurement Officer. The Mayor then asked me to join their team as the City’s very first Supplier Diversity Manager.

For the past 14 years, I have worked for the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System overseeing minority and women owned business certification, compliance, training and outreach. Now, it’s my responsibility to oversee certification, compliance, training, and outreach for the City of Mobile. Anchored by the Federal, State and Local Disadvantaged Business Certification Program, the City’s programs are designed to identify DBEs, service-disabled veteran owned (SDV), and woman owned business (WBE) according to discrete certification standards. We work hard to mitigate the effects of past and present social-disadvantage and economic-disadvantage by increasing the opportunity of DBEs in the procurement of goods and services by the City.

My vision is to develop a program that will deliver and capture value through supplier diversity. We are growing the capacity and improving accessibility for Mobile’s business community, especially for socially and economically DBEs to support the work of City government. Since its inception, the Supplier Diversity Office has launched its first online vendor portal, hosted its first Vendor Town hall and will be holding its Second Annual Industry Day on September 29th.

industry day2

For the first time in the history of the City, vendors can now conduct almost all City business online. All current vendors are already registered in our portal, and all new vendors can now self-register at https://mobileselfservice.tylertech.com. At Industry Day next, we will discuss the online vendor registration and vendor self service as well as upcoming contracting opportunities for the 2017 Capital Improvement Plan. This will be an opportunity for potential contractors to meet with City staff, ask questions and learn more about future projects.

I encourage all vendors interested in our supplier diversity program to give me a call at 251-208-7967 or send me an email at Archnique.kidd@cityofmobile.org. If you are a minority, woman or disadvantaged business enterprise, I want to present you every opportunity to work with the City of Mobile.

 

 

Infrastructure is expensive

by Dianne Irby, Executive Director of Planning and Development

Infrastructure is expensive!  All across America, cities and states are dealing with aging infrastructure.  Not only is the City of Mobile the rainiest city, but it is further compounded by the fact that we have not had dedicated planning and investment to address our growing backlog of broken infrastructure and deferred maintenance within our public facilities.

historical cip expenditures

As Executive Director of Planning & Development, I have the pleasure of working with the Mayor’s administration and with City Council on several key initiatives. My role is to provide leadership and oversight of our City Planning, Engineering, and Real Estate & Asset Management Departments.  Everything from our Comprehensive Planning process “Map for Mobile”, to a Zoning overhaul, to a full city facilities condition assessment are among those key initiatives.  But the most visible one is probably the Capital Improvement Plan – CIP.

To continue to transform and grow our City, Mayor Stimpson has focused on fixing the broken infrastructure throughout the City. We have developed and are executing a plan to allocate more capital improvement and equipment monies than ever before.

cip website6

Fix Mobile is synonymous with building and re-building Mobile. Sound financial management within a municipality involves multi-year planning and budgeting. Without the longer view, decisions focus only on the problems of today.  Real, sustainable growth involves both near term and longer term planning.  The multi-year focus has several benefits:

  • Allows for baseline assessments and identifies current conditions while encouraging discussion of future needs and potential policy changes
  • Given the baseline assessment, initiatives can be developed and pursued, and the fiscal implications can be discussed.   There are always trade-offs with limited funding. Visibility of funding sources and justification for projects is transparent and fully vetted.
  • Enables better on-going management and monitoring of implementation and provides continuous “check-ups” so adjustments can be made and priorities can be revisited
  • These multi-year plans are iterative and designed to be reviewed annually, leaving room for on-going input.

Mobile Botanical Gardens Improvements

For Mobile, in fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018, the capital improvements plan (CIP) allocates funding for projects throughout the City/Districts based on $21M dollars per year tied to the extension of the penny sales tax. Everything from sidewalks, parks, road resurfacing, street light replacement, museum and library roofs to stormwater management, drainage and litter improvement projects are underway. This is a rolling 3-year program with a total of $63M being planned in this first 3-year process.

It should be noted, this is the first time the City has embarked on such a robust and well-defined long term planning process for capital improvements. So we chose to use the services of a Program Management firm (Hawksley/MWH) to assist staff in all departments with capital planning and execution, knowing that rapid development of project estimates and oversight of design and construction would require additional resources, cost control, scheduling, and QA/QC. We are bringing in best practices from work in other municipalities to complement our City staff and local resources.

We developed a decision making process to validate and prioritize project selection. Engineering, real estate, parks and recreation, traffic engineering, legal, procurement, architectural/engineering, and community housing and development departments were at the table with the Mayor’s office and City Council members for the deliberations and development of the 2016 and 2017 plans.  The process is on-going and will be undertaken again in the spring of 2017 for the 2018 fiscal year.

Our goal is to develop and grow our ability as a City to sustain a programmatic approach to rebuilding our aging infrastructure. We have appreciated all the feedback from citizens and have information on the website at www.fixmobile.org with an interactive map and highlights of current project activity.  I hope you’ll take the time to review what’s happening throughout the City.

 

 

Summer in Mobile Through The Eyes of A Photographer

Mobile’s Renaissance Man Eugene Walter once wrote, “Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”A local photographer took to the streets this summer to discover that dimension in Mobile.