I’ve given scores of speeches about a better Birmingham.
At the beginning of my talk I always ask the same question: “Who thinks Birmingham has reached its potential?”
No one has ever raised a hand. Not one hand out of thousands of people.
How’s that possible?
Birmingham’s beautiful; our people are smart and generous—and we’re located in the heart of the South—the fastest growing region in the United States.
Some blame our lack of progress on race—some on poor leadership…but The Washington Post has laid it out for us.
According to a recent piece published in The Washington Post:
Fragmented government…makes entire metros horribly inefficient. It hamstrings their ability to solve collective challenges. And it costs them economically, too.
When we compare the growth, productivity and even social mobility of different U.S. metros, this is one of the factors that separates thriving regions from stumbling ones: the fragmentation of government.
The OECD, in a report on the “Metropolitan Century“…found across all of its member countries that when you double the number of municipalities per 100,000 residents within a single metropolitan area, regional labor productivity falls by 5 to 6 percent. In short: the more little governments you have, the less productive the entire local economy is.
(We have 35+ municipalities in Jefferson County alone)
Everyone seems to agree that our segmented government structure is holding us back—but many feel we are powerless to change.
We are on a roll in Birmingham. We’re showing great progress and momentum. Projects are being announced almost weekly. We are feeling good about ourselves.
But we’ve been here before. Remember, we are ‘The Magic City.’ We historically have been on the verge of greatness. But somehow we seem to lose our magic.
Let’s not allow this to happen again.
Changing government structure may be difficult, but it’s the only option we have to reach our potential.
Just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. A wise friend once told me, “I’ve never completed a job I never started.”
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12, a division of Intermark Group, and co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).