On August 30, 2013, The Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) published a list of Birmingham’s 50 most influential executives. (Click here to see BBJ list of 50 most influential executives)
The BBJ tried to answer the question, “Who holds the power in the Birmingham business community?”
The list includes the absolute top corporate and political leaders including Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Jefferson County Commission President, David Carrington; Jay Grinney, President and CEO of HealthSouth, and Grayson Hall, Chairman, President, and CEO of Regions Financial Corporation.
I know most of these people personally and I like and respect every one of them. All of them are generous with their time and money and they exemplify the best in leadership. Absolutely nothing much would happen in metro-Birmingham without them.
Don Logan, owner of the Birmingham Barons, Seek Publishing, and Bass Anglers is making a huge impact on our city; John Lauriello from Southpace Properties has been renovating downtown buildings before it was cool and is a voice of conscience for Birmingham; there would be no Regions Field without Robert Simon. And Fred McCallum, President of AT&T, deserves the Nobel Prize for his community leadership.
I could write about the accomplishments of all 50, but this blog would be much too long.
However, our top executives and other corporate and political leaders are missing one vital component. There’s no coordinated vision for metro-Birmingham and no plan to make it happen.
The Birmingham Business Alliances (BBA) created Blue Print Birmingham* and the BBA is taking the lead in implementation. But, as usual, we attack the symptoms rather than the root cause of our problems. There’s absolutely no way we are able to compete when we have 37 Jefferson County municipalities, no single political leader elected county-wide, and no home rule. There’s no political entity with enough geography or strength to accomplish anything of significance.
I give a gold star to Jeffrey Bayer, President and CEO of Bayer Properties, who was brave enough in a recent guest blog to suggest that Jefferson County and Birmingham consolidate without the existing municipalities. Who knows if this is our best solution, but the fact that Mr. Bayer boldly made the suggestion is quite refreshing.
Ambassador Andrew Young, an early Civil Rights leader, spoke at the Downtown Rotary recently. He said after the Bull Connor dog/hosing incidents and the bombing of our Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that one hundred of Birmingham’s top leaders joined together to end segregation in Birmingham a full year before the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Yes, Birmingham was a leader in civil rights.
Jeffrey Bayer asks, “Haven’t we had enough? Aren’t we tired of falling behind our peer cities?”
Birmingham has always been called the “City of Perpetual Promise.”
If Birmingham’s 50 most influential leaders made up their minds–we could fulfill that promise.
*Editor’s note: I was on the BBA committee that helped create Blue Print Birmingham and I serve on the BBA Board of Directors (at least until this article publishes)
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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).