What would Birmingham look like without UAB–Anniston?

UAB 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).

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4 thoughts on “What would Birmingham look like without UAB–Anniston?”

  1. *VERY on target.  Fair or not, UAB can and, perhaps, must be more than the economic engine of the region.  There’s a leadership vacuum that needs filled.

  2. *Hopefully the whole University of Alabama System will benefit as much by Dr. Witt becoming the Chancellor as the University of Alabama did under his leadership as President. If that is the case UAB and Birmingham better buckle up because things are going to move quickly in a good direction. As a Birmingham area resident UAB doing well is important for our whole area. Unfortunately constant squables over UAB atletics continue to drive a wedge between UAB and UA alums that in my opinion are totally avoidable. Hopefully these squables that date back to Gene Bartow and Wimp Sanderson will stop so everyone can work together to create a great University of Alabama System that will benefit Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. That would be a win-win for everyone.

  3. My vision for UAB to lead the city is to make UAB a car free zone. All private vehicles would be  parked near Titusville ( west of campus, 6 th ave south ). Huge parking deck could also be used for sporting events at the new UAB dome in the same general area. Circulator busses shuttling folks around campus that are integrated with bus or train to bring folks to campus from the 280 corridor. Then a short jump to public transit, could it be busses that run on time or light rail integrated into the mix. Great cities have great public transportation. UAB might could twist some arms and get public transportation in the city. Public health would be greatly improved if we got 25,000 cars off the road coming and going to UAB everyday. So lets use the public health aspect of UAB health center to encourage public transportation since we can not use public dollars for public transportation. 

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