Nashville spits on Birmingham

Up until a few years ago, our Chamber of Commerce (currently BBA), organized a trip of community leaders and politicians to visit other cities.  They were called the “BIG Trips,” and the purpose was to learn what works in other communities.

The Chamber over a seven year period visited St. Louis (2002), Baltimore (2003), Charlotte (2004), Nashville (2005), Pittsburgh (2006), Denver (2007, and Austin (2008).

We found these trips to be fascinating.  We heard about successes and we heard about failures, but it opened our eyes to the possibilities.

However, one of these trips was humiliating.

We felt Nashville would be the perfect city visit.  It’s located nearby, we’ve watched Nashville grow, and many of us had visited on numerous occasions.  So it would be good to hear directly from their politicians and business leaders.

But it became clear that many of the Nashville speakers looked down on Birmingham.

In a session to learn about the success of healthcare in Nashville, one of the panelists asked how Birmingham’s healthcare industry could survive after the HealthSouth debacle.  Fortunately, Dr. Carol Garrison, the President of UAB was in attendance and had the opportunity to respond.

Then in our luncheon session, a speaker who was describing Nashville’s successes in Civil Rights, called us “Bombingham,” as if we were still the cradle of mean spirited segregation.

And then in a third session, an African American State official told us about an incident where he stopped for gas while visiting Birmingham and another customer made a racial remark.  He insinuated that Birmingham was a bunch of racists.  (He later apologized in writing)

These three speakers certainly don’t represent the many fine people who live in Nashville, but it did hurt our feelings.

Nashville has had some great accomplishments.  And in my opinion, many of these successes were made possible because Nashville and Davidson County have a unified government.

It’s experiences like this that has made me and others determined to turn Birmingham around.

We can do better than this.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).


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9 thoughts on “Nashville spits on Birmingham”

  1. I am not white not black I am brown and I have a different perspective, could be I have been around with
    forward thinking people of Birmingham. I think Birmingham has some great companies, strong entrepreneurial sprit, they just are very secretive about it unless
    we change our own perception internally how can others from the outside see that. This change has to be championed 
    internally then external. 

  2. Until our collective voice as a city/community is larger than that of individuals who are validating these perceptions, Birmingham’s
    image will continue to suffer.  Our state and its constitution, which didn’t strike the interracial marriage ban until 2000,
    don’t help any of us in Birmingham out either.  I see why folks in Nashville had these ideas about us because I’ve
    personally witnessed them in Birmingham, but that was years and years ago…and I can’t tell when you last visited
    Nashville by your post.  Birmingham is a different community in 2012, but we still have a ways to go.
    While we do have a thriving entrepreneurial community, we’re not seeing faces of color nearly as often as we should.  Birmingham
    does have an image problem to overcome, and if we’re smart…we’ll see that doing the right thing (like a true effort to
    diversify our business leadership) not only makes us look better, but it also adds value to the company’s bottom line too.

    1. Emily, Thanks for your well thought out comments. Please continue to participate in our discussions on how to make Birmingham better & encourage others to do so.

  3. David, my family moved to Birmingham in 1961. We lived in Norwood. I went to Phillips High School.  Birmingham, Norwood, and Phillips we considered the centerpiece of Alabama.  Back then it was considered the Magic City.  Unfortunately the magic has vanished.  I still remember the Alabama theater.  I could walk to downtown Birmingham and see wonderful movies in that theater.  Christmas was like being in New York City when all the old beautiful buildings, such as Pizitz, Yieldings, etc., were all decorated and their large windows brillantly lit with decorations.

    Where did the magic go?  As you well know it moved to the suburbs. Now we have to drive everywhere.

    I agree with you and the movement you are starting. The ultimate solution is a unified metro area government. We need to rid oursleves of the unnecessary small town fiefdoms. We need to all pull in the same direction.

    I am egarly watching and hope to participate in this journey.

    1. Henry, you and I share much of the same Birmingham experience.  Would you consider sharing our efforts with others?  There’s real power in numbers.  I look forward to your continued participation and comments.

  4. It is gratifying to see the increased recognition in our Greater Birmingham area of the need to have stronger regional cooperation.  Certainly the experience of many other communities across the country has served as a stimulus for this growing support.  People are recognizing that we are stronger together as a region and can capitalize more effectively on our strengths and reduce our weaknesses by cooperating across jurisdictional lines.  Let’s continue the conversation, and also the forward movement with specific proposals for consideration.

  5. Nashville doesn’t always win. Several years ago, they had an Indycar race. Now we have it, and it has been a bigger success here than it ever was in Nashville.

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