Our BBA (Chamber of Commerce) takes a trip to Washington every year to visit our Alabama Senators and Congressmen and to lobby for legislation and money.
The BBA prepares a priority agenda and typically a small group of business leaders, politicians, and staff fly to DC to make their request.
Our congressional leaders are always very hospitable, take time to talk with us and answer our questions.
But every year we typically hear the same story, “There are multiple groups that come to Washington to speak with us from Birmingham and they all have different and competing requests.”
There are separate delegations from the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Shelby County, UAB, and of course the BBA.
Artur Davis, when he was in Congress, told us that often the Jefferson County delegation and the City of Birmingham delegation made requests that contained not one single common item.
Our BBA also takes an annual trip to Montgomery to meet with our State Senators and Legislators. Again there’s the same problem of competing groups making conflicting requests.
The end result is that the Birmingham region often gets overlooked.
Contrast that to Huntsville & Madison County, who fly to Washington on their annual trip with 150 to 200 representatives and a common agenda for their region.
When I was Chairman of the Chamber in 2005, there was an opportunity for representatives of the Chamber to meet with Governor Riley to request funding for our Dome Stadium. It appeared we had financial commitments from Jefferson County and the City. All we were lacking was money from the State.
Governor Riley told us he had talked with other business leaders and politicians from our region and there was no broad support for the stadium.
By the way, we’ve had the same lack of support for Highway 280 and numerous other projects because of the mixed messages we send.
The response from our politicians is always the same, “Go home, get your act together, and then come back and see us.”
It’s time we speak with a common voice.
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).