It’s a good time to be a Mobilian. This old town is booming with innovation, industry, compassion and creativity. Since taking office, Mayor Sandy Stimpson has had his eye on a single goal: creating “One Mobile.” For Stimpson, this means making Mobile the “safest, most business and family friendly city in America.” Thanks to the eager, passionate people of our city, we’re well on our way to success, and here’s why we should pat ourselves on the back.
1. We Work Together
Walking into The Exchange Downtown, the brightness stands out above all else. Exposed brick walls, glass offices and pops of color create a cohesive, inviting and productive space. When Todd Greer moved to Mobile, he searched for a space to work with like-minded innovators and creators. Unable to find one, he created his own, opening The Exchange in September 2015 along with Mobilians John Peebles and Allan Cameron. “We found in the months that have followed our opening, Mobile is tremendously excited about having a space that is built specifically for developing organizations, ” he says. Greer also works closely with the colleges in town to “re-recruit” local graduates to stay, as a way to keep the brightest, newest talent working and creating here in Mobile. He explains, “They have higher levels of access and a greater ability to make an impact than if they were to head to another locale.” The Exchange, along with the Fuse Project (of Dragon Boat Festival fame) space opening in 2016, aims to modernize and energize Mobile’s work culture as well as provide much-anticipated space for individuals and small organizations looking to collaborate, network and make a change. Fuse Project Executive Director Adrienne Golden views these spaces as a serious pro for the city. “The space will continue the groundswell of momentum for the redevelopment of Downtown Mobile.”
the dots with all these other great people.”
– Ashley Dukes, accountant, on working at The Exchange
2. We Fight Poverty
Housing First, Inc. and other organizations working with the homeless deserve a big round of applause. In May 2015, Mobile and Baldwin counties reached “functional zero” for homeless veterans and the chronically homeless, a status confirmed to Mayor Stimpson via a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in September 2015. Basically, this means that whenever an organization identifies one of these struggling veterans, they are housed within 14 days. “We are quite proud that we have met functional zero for the chronically homeless, but the next big step will be to eradicate homelessness entirely in the area, ” Housing First COO Michelle Dees says. Housing First, who has served more than 2, 000 homeless citizens and those at risk for homelessness, has set an ambitious goal to reach functional zero across the board by January of 2019.
HELP OUT Volunteer your time at uwswa.org, or simply donate to a local Goodwill store and name Housing First, Inc. as a beneficiary. This grants their clients gift cards to purchase clothing and household items once they are housed.
3. Being Awesome Saves Lives
The Port City has produced (and attracted) some incredible minds. So incredible that a research team at the Mitchell Cancer Institute qualified for a $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue research for a newer, quicker, more accessible and more reliable way to detect early ovarian cancer in women. Licensed through Swift Biotech, another Mobile company, and soon to be patented, the research currently underway means more partnerships and research opportunities for MCI and the Gulf Coast at large. “If the data validates our early findings, we could be six months away from a monumental breakthrough, ” he shares. “If our work is successful, it could save thousands of lives each year.” Especially since there currently exists no reliable methods for early detection, this research could potentially change the survival rate of ovarian cancer from about 15 or 20 percent to 90 percent, says Dr. Rodney Rocconi, chief of Gynecologic Oncology at MCI. Such a discovery would impact women’s health across the nation.
REVOLUTIONARY With this research, survival rates among women diagnosed with ovarian cancer could jump as much as 75 percent.
Photo by Kristin Corlett
4. Community Comes First
Ashley Dukes cofounded the Midtown Mobile Movement, and she’s on a mission. In November 2015, the Midtown Movement held a charette (or intensive, two-day long meeting) with urban planners to brainstorm the best ways to bring Old Shell Road back to life. “People from all areas of town … had the same ideas for the area – making it pedestrian friendly and supporting local businesses. It was just uplifting, it gave us a new sense of positivity, ” Dukes shares. Ideas such as turning the old Blue Bird Hardware shop into a neighborhood coffeehouse and converting the Old Shell Road School into studio apartments promise not only to beautify MiMo, but respect their histories. “[Repurposing] Blue Bird Hardware could be the next big, exciting thing, ” Dukes shares breathlessly. The excitement and passion she has for the neighborhood comes through in her voice, even over the telephone. “Every part of town has a coffee shop – Serda’s Downtown, Carpe Diem in Spring Hill, Cream and Sugar in Oakleigh – where you can walk or bike and get coffee. This could really bring in different sides of the community.”
EXCITING Become a part of the restoration of Midtown. Visit midtownmobile.org to learn about ongoing projects and upcoming developments.
5. Our Table is Always Set
You can head to any area of town and find a plethora of dining choices, but have you gotten a gander of Downtown lately?
Chuck’s Fish and Five Bar announced plans to move into the Port City this year, and the gang at The Haberdasher is hard at work bringing a long-empty Dauphin Street building back to life. Not to mention the news that Downtown Mobile may soon have its own brewery, thanks to John Serda. (Fingers crossed!) New restaurants seem to pop up nearly weekly, such as Von’s and Saisho in late 2015 and Dauphin’s set to open early 2016.
Plus, with Whole Foods Market and the ever-popular farmers market events, Mobile cares not only about providing magnificent dining experiences in-restaurant, but about creating the same palates and excitement in every Mobilian’s home.
YUM! Have you tasted the cuisine at The Galley inside the new GulfQuest Maritime Musuem? Word on the street is it’s phenomenal!
Photo by Hanlon Walsh
6. We Rock at Preserving the Environment
Widely known for its waterways, Mobile takes keeping these iconic resources healthy and beautiful seriously. Luckily, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) has them covered. Created from a national EPA program for water and coastal rejuvenation, MBNEP enacted a comprehensive five-year plan in 2013; now, at the halfway mark, things are looking swell. “As far as ecosystem restoration goes, we estimated that we’d get funded for about seven to 10 watershed plans. We got funding for 31, ” director Roberta Swann explains with pride. Watershed restoration plans include Three Mile Creek, making possible the incredible additions in the works, such as hiking and biking trails, a boat launch and a fitness course. But for Swann, keeping Mobile’s land (and water) clean is reward enough. “The most exciting part from our perspective is the acceptance of watershed planning as a mechanism for coastal restoration. It really compels communities to work together closely. Which is really cool!”
7. We Care for All
Ensuring the health of a city means ensuring the health of those most in need. In Mobile, that job often falls to Victory Health Partners. “We’re covering a lot of gaps here, ” development director Kim Garrett at Victory Health Partners shares. A nonprofit medical clinic catering specifically to uninsured patients in the area, Victory sees patients from more than 40 counties across Alabama, Mississippi and Florida as one of the very few full-time, privately funded clinics available. In fact, they service around 15, 600 patients, connecting them with crucial care. Since they are not tied to federal funding, Victory has more freedom to help their patients. With more than 150 local partners, Victory can offer just about any services necessary to their patients, from nutrition classes and counseling to eye doctors and neurologists. “We really are a network of specialists that works closely together. It’s a neat network for our patients.”
More Reasons to Strut Our Stuff
TENSIXTYFIVE City leaders and innovators came together to create TenSixtyFive music festival in a matter of days, showing the ingenuity of Mobile’s citizens and the care they have for the city. The event promises to impact Mobile for years.
THE GROUNDS Scott Tindle spearheaded the revival of the landmark venue, renovating the buildings to bring the out-of-date space into the modern era, which means Mobile gets to play host to exciting events, including the Gulf State Fair.
POP UP BROAD STREET A one-day business fair developed by Terrance Smith of One Mobile, Pop Up Broad Street sets up shops in derelict buildings on Conti and Dauphin streets, thereby empowering Mobilians to directly support local vendors.
GIFT-A-LIFT MOBILE Give the gift of transportation to a Mobilian in need. This campaign, running through the month of February, promises to provide free bus passes to community members lacking reliable transportation. Visit giftaliftmobile.com to donate.
INNOVATION PORTAL Born after similar programs in other booming cities, Innovation PortAL is a small business incubator looking to foster startups that will add to the South Alabama community and bring more people and energy to the region.
GROWING INDUSTRY With Airbus moving into Brookley Field, Mobile is rapidly becoming a core facet of the national aerospace workforce with over 3, 500 locals employed. Maritime engineering in the area also boasts more than 6, 000 employees in the Port City.
IN THE NEWS Our annual MoonPie Drop celebration on New Year’s Eve 2016 made it onto several national “best of” lists, including those for USA Today and Parade Magazine.
We are One Mobile
“I just wanted to be a part of it, ” Rich Sullivan, CEO of Red Square Agency, shares of his experience bringing TenSixtyFive music festival to life. He was one of the many folks who helped pull the festival together in a matter of days, working tirelessly to bring the city an event for the ages, including building its website, creating the mascot and storming social media. “I don’t think anyone involved had a lot of time to think much. We all just said ‘yes.’ And we had about an hour, and we were desperately shouting whatever came to our minds and jotting furiously on a white board.”
Overall, Mobile’s bustling and blossoming atmosphere isn’t due just to this handful of citizens; it’s thanks to everyone. “The transformation is taking place in broad spectrum as Mobilians start taking responsibility for changing their communities, ” executive director for The Grounds Scott Tindle says. “In large part due to the work of Mayor Stimpson’s team, there is currently a large group of change makers under the age of 40 who truly believe that Mobile can become one of the world’s great cities over the course of our generation. We still have a few major hurdles to overcome, with the largest being ourselves. The people of Mobile must not allow themselves to be fearful of the great success that is on our horizon.”
We are curating the spirit of Mobile, an amorphous but ever-present zeitgeist that drives us to excellence. In a million different ways and always with a can-do attitude, Mobilians influence their city for the betterment of all. Our future is bright and our present is absolutely spectacular.
Text by Chelsea Wallace