How can we have UAB and suck?


UAB has an annual  economic impact of  $4.6 billion

When our Chamber of Commerce (BBA) visited Charlotte in 2004, we were greeted by the President of the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Charlotte’s a city on fire, but the first words out the President’s mouth were, “We don’t have anything like UAB.”

Can you believe a great city like Charlotte is jealous of us?

And for good reason, UAB has…

  • 18,000 employees (largest in the State)
  • 53,000 jobs at the university and in the health system
  • 10% of jobs in Birmingham & 1 in 33 in State are directly/indirectly related to UAB
  • Annual economic impact at $4.6 billion
  • 82 square blocks*

And yet even with an economic engine like UAB, our Birmingham region is stalled.

When the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) prepared a strategic plan in 2010, a comparison was made with Birmingham and three peer cities:  Nashville, Oklahoma City, and Louisville.  Birmingham’s Jefferson County was the only county of the three with no increase in population in the last decade.

And according to The Business Journals, a sister company of the Birmingham Business Journal, Birmingham ranked 222 in income growth and 268 in growth rate of our nation’s largest 366 metros from 2000-2010.

Embarrassingly, Forbes labeled Birmingham “The Biggest Loser” (# 173) in its annual look at America’s Best Places for Business for five year period ending in 2010.

And recently, the Brookings Institution named Birmingham among the nation’s 20th poorest performing areas in 2011.

The blame lies clearly with our dysfunctional government.  While other cities work with a common goal, we work against one another wasting our valuable time and resources.

Sam Addy, director and research economist at the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research was quoted in the Birmingham News, in December of 2011, “One of the traditional shortcomings is the lack of coordinated leadership in a metro area that is extremely fragmented, with dozens of local governments and local priorities.”

We have one of the greatest economic engines in the world in UAB and yet we struggle.  Until we revamp our flawed government structure we will remain powerless.

*Statistics from Wikipedia

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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3 thoughts on “How can we have UAB and suck?”

  1. David – BHM’s lack of success may be because of, not in spite of, UAB. it’s always been a mill town. There is lite correlation between consolidated govt and growth. Case in point the Greenville-Spartanburg MSA which has more governments and NO dominant institutions. Compare. Louisville and Javksonville FL are not exactly paragons. Memphis turned down consolidated govt by a large margin and almost half of the Citu voted against. For good reason. The suburbs would have taken over. This is a favorite subject for me and if you’d like to talk about it give me a call at 901-833-2315.

  2. David, I have said this before but it is worth saying again. I agree with you. As long as the government of Birmingham and Jefferson County is divided in to 37 local governments this is a difficult proposition.  It would sacrificing the individual for the common good.  It means local leaders would lose power and prestige.  Should it happen – Yes!  Will it happen – Doubtful! 

  3. This all boils down to one word.
    We have to change our perspective. We have to stop being a market of spectators and followers. We have to stop waiting for someone to be successful at something before we can say, “it’s a good idea”. 
    A little more than a year ago I made the decision to take my business virtual, which mind you, was not the easiest path. I made that decision for many reasons; however, one big factor was the market I was in. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that I was going to be more successful selling my product to someone that didn’t know me from adam’s cat than in my own market. Why? Because my market was not yet adapting to new ideas and cutting edge marketing tactics. People will go to networking meetings all day long and listen to discussions on these types of things, but when it comes to implementation, they are not onboard. Now mind you I am not saying everyone….but for the most part let’s just say we are not the first head on the totem pole when it comes to innovation.
    The mindset has to change. I am very hopeful and feel that as time goes on and the generation Y population moves into places of leadership this will bring the change Birmingham and our state as a whole needs.

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