To compare Birmingham with no UAB to Anniston is an unfair exaggeration and I apologize to the good citizens of Anniston. I could have selected any mid-sized city, but I Googled “cities in Alabama” and Anniston came to the top alphabetically.
Visualize Birmingham without UAB. Exit the Red Mountain Expressway at University Avenue (without UAB–it would be 8th Avenue South) and drive west.
What would we see in place of the 86 square blocks occupied by UAB?
What would happen to UAB’s 23,000 employees, 18,000 students, and the hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of employees who support UAB?
I was recently told by a friend that each student at UAB represents $50,000 a year to the Birmingham economy.
UAB employs more people than the next four largest metro Birmingham companies combined:
- UAB 23,000
- Regions Financial 6,000
- AT&T 5,750
- St. Vincent ‘s 4,703
- Honda 4,500
- Total of 2-5: 20,953
If Birmingham had no UAB, the largest cities in Alabama would likely be Montgomery and Mobile–with Birmingham and Huntsville 3rd and 4th.
But what would UAB look like if its “B” didn’t stand for Birmingham? I contend UAB would be a much greater force if Birmingham was a much greater force.
UAB admits publicly it’s difficult to recruit talent to Birmingham. It has to be easier for Vanderbilt to recruit to Nashville or Emory to Atlanta.
UAB’s announced recruiting strategy for its top talent is to entice candidates to Birmingham in consulting positions and then watch them fall in love with our people, our beauty, and our quality of life. And Birmingham does have a great quality of life.
UAB is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise $1 billion dollars and our community should support UAB with every ounce of energy and dollars.
UAB has saved Birmingham, but now it’s time for UAB to lead Birmingham.
UAB’s heavily involved in helping our community. UAB’s efforts touch us in every way from healthcare to education, but the leadership at UAB should consider taking a more strategic approach to Birmingham.
Our metro government structure is a train wreck–too many competing governments with lack of home rule. Almost everyone agrees we must do something, but no one thinks it’s possible to repair.
If UAB would take the lead to build a more unified metro Birmingham with the same passion it’s putting into building a great UAB, Birmingham would soon be competitive with Nashville and Charlotte.
UAB will not achieve its potential unless Birmingham achieves its potential.
When the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (now BBA), visited Charlotte almost ten years ago, the President of the University of North Carolina Charlotte welcomed us with these comments, “We don’t have anything like UAB, but…”
Charlotte does not have anything like UAB, but Birmingham does.
Our Birmingham region is the biggest beneficiary of a great UAB.
UAB would be the biggest beneficiary of a great Birmingham.
Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)
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).