ComebackTown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Andrew Patterson. (We love when young professionals are guest bloggers)
I am a big Birmingham fan and have lived here for the better part of 12 years. Birmingham truly is a great city and I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else.
However, growing up in Nashville and seeing its growth over the last 30 years, I can’t help but wonder why Birmingham can’t keep up with Nashville or other Southeastern cities. Needless to say,Nashville has passed Birmingham like we were standing still, to the point where I no longer see Nashville as a competitor. In fact, Nashville was named America’s New Boomtown in this article: http://aol.it/11mYAnc. Below, you will see MSA population comparisons over the last 30 years.
Populations in 1980
Populations in 1990
Populations in 2000
Populations in 2010
Estimated Populations in 2012
Birmingham Growth: 21% (.65% per year)
Nashville Growth: 103% (3.2% per year)
Nashville has grown at 5 times the rate that Birmingham has during this time; however, this example is not limited to only Nashville as the same can be said for Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, and other Southern cities.
While growth is certainly not everything, and in fact can sometimes be detrimental if not handled appropriately, it is certainly an indication of the health of the local economy and job creation. No one will deny the importance of jobs in our economy as jobs fuel population growth, which in turn, fuels more jobs to meet the needs of the increased population and in-turn fuels even more growth. In fact, it has been estimated that every 100 jobs adds nearly $5,000,000 to the local economy and adds over 26 indirect/induced jobs. This generally leads to better services for residents, increased tax base, more construction/re-investment, higher real estate values, and by-in-large a better city.
Birmingham and Nashville have a lot in common – southern hospitality, great food, similar climates, centrally located, healthcare and financial based economy – but why is Birmingham lagging behind Nashville, when it comes to growth?
There are two main differences between Birmingham and Nashville:
1. The biggest difference between Nashville and Birmingham is the lack of a unified vision. The lack of vision comes primarily from our disjointed government structure. Nashville has a municipal government – a consolidated county and city government. Birmingham’s Jefferson County is disjointed with 37 different city governments and a county commission. How can you build consensus when you have 37 different mayors, 37 different city councils, and a county commission with 5 commissioners, and no unified voice or vision? From my time in Nashville, it seemed as everyone in Nashville, the surrounding area, and the state works toward a common goal of moving the city and area forward as they realize that so goes Nashville… Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Birmingham.
2. Nashville has a can-do attitude. In Birmingham, each new project is seemingly met with opposition. Just read the comment section of practically anything related to Birmingham and you will be astounded by the negativity that is in our community. This attitude is keeping us stuck in the past. We, the citizens of Birmingham and the surrounding metropolitan area are hindering our own growth and potential. Luckily, there is an uprising of young adults and committed professionals who want to see our great city move forward, and who are investing time, energy and money and their livelihoods into our downtown core and helping to reinvigorate our city.
There is a lot of positive momentum in our city, particularly the city core, but in order to obtain the sustained growth that we need and want, we must form a county-city municipal government, and we must start believing in ourselves.
So, can Birmingham be the next Nashville? Absolutely! With a consolidated government structure and a can-do attitude, we have all the promise in the world. Without it, we will lag behind other cities and continue to be frustrated with Birmingham…the city of forever promise.
Andrew Patterson is a Principal at Shannon Waltchack, a Birmingham-based Commercial Real Estate Firm. His firm has been actively involved in revitalizing Birmingham through historic renovations in the CBD and commercial developments throughout the city. www.shanwalt.com.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).