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April 05, 2008

Aleem : Urban Digs

"Upwardly" Mobile

« Homes, Pay Checks and Cities | Main | Google NYC »

Mobile, Alabama is making strides to advance its local economy, in recent weeks it has attracted Airbus' European parent company to its city in an effort to build an aerospace cluster.  New commercial airplanes and big military tanks are on the way for production right out of this tiny centre in the Southern U.S.  Other industries (steel, auto makers) are also looking at Mobile as a place to set up shop.


Why is it that manufacturers, many of them foreign based find Mobile hard to resist?  What's keeping Mobile Alabama's economy on fast forward?

Aleem Kanji


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Cheap Labor is the key. A cheap dollar that is declining against the Euro is another. They are probably attracting the manufacturing side of the Airbus jobs not so much the engineering side. I don't think Mobile Alabama is going to attract many experienced engineers or scientists. The reason being Alabama is more known for race riots, violence, lower educational levels, and high poverty.

Michael Wells

Not a creative class mecca, but if Mobile can attract and keep sophisticated manufacturing it will start to grow a creative class and probably increasing tolerance. Airbus assembly isn't low-tech textiles, the workforce will need education and training. Wages will increase. Anything that moves the deep South out of low education levels and poverty is good.

I do wonder about putting those expensive manufacturing plants in hurricane country.


As a South Carolina resident with similar economic and social issues as Alabama, I'm glad to see the Deep South and high-value manufacturing noted on this blog. While the cheap dollar is most definitely a factor in the surge in foreign investment and exports, I'm a bit tired of the simplistic "cheap labor" charge (the really "cheap" manufacturing jobs are still going to China, Vietnam, Mexico, etc.), not to mention the 1960s view of the Deep South in terms of racial conflict, low education levels, etc. Coastal trade cities like Mobile, Charleston, Savannah, and Norfolk are pretty well poised to take advantage of their excellent port facilities, excellent rail and highway connections which connecting to interior consumer markets, factories, and warehouses, and, yes, a growing creative class base. Many of these cities, like Charleston, have long histories of being quite open to global trade (yes, the slave trade was unfortunately a part of that for many centuries, but the post-civil-rights versions of these cities are still surprising open to global business connections). Despite some lingering social conservative issues surrounding these states (gay marriage, etc.), Richard's 3rd "T", tolerance, is most definitely a growing factor in these cities. Those old colonial-era homes in beautiful urban neighborhoods aren't all that different from what you might find in Boston or San Francisco, and as such are attracting a good contingent of creative class individuals. And yes, we have some really good restaurants, art schools, and other aspects of the creative economy.

If I were to some up what some parts of the Deep South offer the creative class, it's this: VALUE.

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