18 May Collaboration – The Coastal Alabama Region
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”- Helen Keller
To illustrate our preparedness to draw the right partner to the Mega Site last week, I wrote about how Baldwin County and our Coastal Alabama community are positioned for a strong diverse economy beyond living generations. Educational expansion is happening at the University of South Alabama, Coastal Alabama Community College, and now we have a presence by both Auburn and Alabama. K-12 performance is improving on both sides of the bay. The healthcare industry is excelling around us with USA Medical— including their fabulous Children and Women’s Hospital—Infirmary Health Systems with many capable facilities, and Community Health Systems expanding soon. (Side note: my 11-year-old son has been to each of these outstanding facilities and is well on his way to medallion class frequent flier status with them.) Education and healthcare are foundational building blocks for our region, which position us for quality growth in many different sectors.
Clean, advanced manufacturing is a sector that really improves our economy along the Coast. Our region is building ships better and more efficiently than anyone else in the world. Airbus is currently delivering 4-A320 platforms per month with the Bombardier C-series line about to do the same. In no time, there will be 12 airplanes each month leaving Brookley Field for passenger air service. These are the big name projects, but there are dozens more companies growing opportunities for the families of the Coastal Alabama region with better jobs and payroll coming from somewhere else in the world to waterfall through our entire region. This improves quality of life for everyone.
The days of “Big Brother” Mobile and “Little Brother” Baldwin County are over. They’re over because local leaders realize that the big things are bigger than any of our individual boundaries. Whether it’s facing challenges like a tropical disturbance or an environmental event, or working on job growth initiatives, the issues we deal with are important enough that we must collaborate as a region to serve the interests of our individual areas with excellence, efficiency and quality.
The Baldwin County Commission has a good working relationship among the four of us. We don’t always agree on everything, but the body, and the four individuals serving as the body, works for the best of all of Baldwin County— no question about it. I enjoy good relationships with each of the three Mobile County Commissioners, Mayor Sandy Stimpson, the Mobile City Council, Mayor Jeff Collier of Dauphin Island, Saraland Mayor Howard Rubenstein, Satsuma Mayor Paul Murray, as well as the legislators representing both Counties in both the House and Senate. The Mobile Chamber works well with our Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, and we regularly share information and leads for the region.
In March 2018, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council approved its Multiyear Implementation Plan to spend RESTORE funds on $192M in projects for the Coastal Alabama region. With the rotation of the Chair for the Commissions, elections, resignations, and appointments, consistency and smooth transitions between members have relied on relationships and trust, along with common goals benefiting our entire region. $192M is real money that will improve the economy and ecology of our area for years.
The I-10 Wallace Tunnel under the Mobile River was built for 36,000 vehicles per day and now we average 75,000 per day with peaks over 100,000. We are closer to the reality of the I-10 bridge improvements than ever, thanks to the work and collaboration of Mobile and Baldwin entities along with Representative Byrne and Senator Shelby kicking the mules and pulling the wagons in D.C. to benefit us locally, regionally and beyond. In April 2017, we had meetings in D.C. with 40 business and elected leaders from both Counties exhibiting collaboration never seen along the Beltway. As everyone knows, the Bayway locks up with a stop of more than an hour 160 days per year, and this is a vital project for our area that will have long-term economic impacts.
Working together is going to be the key to improving our quality of life in Baldwin County. Each municipality is different with its own character, and there are many different personalities and leadership styles, but we all have similar goals for our communities and our families—improving the quality of life on Alabama’s Gulf Coast of which we are proud stewards. As someone much wiser than I am said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”