Life After BRAC: Lessons From Mobile

The lonely guard shack, some vacant buildings, and their now meaningless numbers are all that's left of Naval Station Mobile. The ships left with their sailors in 1994.

Judy Adams with the Alabama State Port Authority says, luckily for Mobile, the economic impact was minor.

"We were fortunate that no sooner were we opening the facility was it slated for closure," Adams says.

So for the last 11 years, Adam's job has been to help breathe life into the ghost town the Navy left behind.

It wasn't easy.

"Part of the process is trying to market essentially a miniature Navy base to commercial applicants. Most industries are used to green fields with no infrastructure except for some utilities. They come in and build to suit,"Adams says.

"When it was closed in 1994, the state docks, the Port of Mobile tried to sell it, they couldn't. We had a hard time finding tenants," University of South Alabama Economics Professor Dr. Semoon Chang says.

Chang says former Navy bases already have strong buildings and modification are expensive. Tearing down and starting over is just out of the question.

"So you're trying to find an industry that can make their business needs work on the existing footprint," Adams says.

For Mobile, that took seven years. Aker-Kvaerner was the first to move in, in 2002. Since then two more companies have utilized the empty buildings, showing that there is life after BRAC.

"It is do-able. It just sometimes takes a little time," Adams adds.

Chang says for Pascagoula the isolation of Singing River Island with the deep water surrounding it, is an asset. Like Mobile, though, Pascagoula would have to pinpoint companies looking for these features.

"If you cannot find those specialized companies that need specialized facilities like yours, then it may take time," Chang says.

Weeds grow like cob webs around some buildings at old the Naval Station in Mobile.

If that happens in Pascagoula, Adams says economic developers should pay close attention to these tips, so the property won't be closed for business.

"Understand the asset, look at it realistically, know what the asset can do, and then market along those lines," Adams says," We all have to make lemonade out of lemons."