Jan. 4, 2018

Minutes of the Rotary Meeting
January 4, 2018
By Kathy Miller

Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by John Dukes at 12:15 pm. Bob Chappelle offered the invocation and Tommy Blankenship led the club in song and the Pledge of Allegiance. Les Greer accompanied at the piano. Jeff Zoghby welcomed visitors and members’ guests.

Student Guest: Jeff Luther introduced the principal of Satsuma High School, Josh Verkoullie, who introduced our student guest, Kathryn Eubanks. Ms. Eubanks spoke to the club.

Announcements:

Club Elections: Russell Ladd reported that the Nominating Committee recommended the following Officers and Directors for the 2018-2019 Rotary year:

President Ernest F. Ladd, IV
Pres. Elect Thomas C. McGehee
Vice President Claire G. McCarron
Treasurer Elizabeth P. Stevens
Secretary Thomas B. Marenstein
Sergeant-At-Arms Thomas E. Blankenship, Jr.

Directors:
John T. Dukes (Immediate Past President)
Garrett Williamson
Douglas B. Kearley
Frank D. Harkins
Katherine L. “Kate” Carver

Rotary Children’s Foundation Distributions: Bo Mattei introduced Jamie Yerby, Executive Director of the Mulherin Home, who was accompanied by Lenny, and Melissa McNichol, Director of Camp Rap-A-Hope. Both organizations are recipients of $3,000 grants by the Rotary Children’s Foundation.

John Dukes reminded members of the Rotary Dine Around on January 16th at Noble South and noted that there would be a member event at the Carnival Museum in February.

Program: Tom McGehee introduced Bill Sisson, CEO & President of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Sisson, who holds a Bachelor of Arts from James Madison University and a MBA from the University of Alabama, updated members on the Mobile economy. He said that 2018 should be a great year based on a recent survey of Chamber members in regard to the state of the local economy. Local leaders feel good about the economy and growth. The response to the survey was representative of the membership. Over 90% of Chamber members represent small business, which is reflective of the area’s economy. Mr. Sisson also noted that the USA Business Confidence Index reflects that business leaders in Mobile are the most optimistic of any in the state about the local economy.

Mr. Sisson noted that the area does have some obstacles to growth, which are not unique to Mobile, including attracting and retaining qualified employees and employee wage and benefit costs. He said that there has been an over 22% increase in salaries nationwide. The unemployment rate is at 4% which is where we were locally ten years ago. Our “gross Mobile product” is over $18 billion. It is significant that that we still “make things” in Mobile. The survey of business leaders reflected that 20 local companies plan to enter new markets, 13 plan to enter new domestic markets, 13 plan to enter new international markets, 31 plan to expand their physical plants, 63 plan to purchase new equipment and software, 38 plan to seek new consumer or business segments and 31 plan to offer new products or services

Mr. Sisson outlined recent accolades recognizing Mobile’s logistical advantages, diversified manufacturing, foreign direct investment, and shipbuilding. He noted that we have a strong chemical sector, that APM terminals and the Airport Authority will be exciting areas to watch, and that we likely will see more projects like the distribution centers for Walmart and Amazon. Mr. Sisson updated members about the Innovation Portal, the business incubator on St. Louis Street, which already has 52 clients although the facility is not yet open. He closed with a quote from C.S. Lewis: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Adjournment: After announcing members’ birthdays, John adjourned the meeting at 1:00 p.m.