Is Birmingham becoming too cocky?

Powell Avenue Steam Plant
Powell Avenue Steam Plant

The CEO of one of our area’s largest companies approached me at a business reception recently and said he was concerned about Birmingham.

I’ve had lots of people tell me they were worried about Birmingham, but never like this.

He continued, “You know how we’ve always suffered from low self-esteem and have little confidence in ourselves?   Well, I think we may now have gone too far in the opposite direction.”

Wow!  His statement caught me by complete surprise.  I’ve worried about Birmingham for many reasons, but never about being too cocky?

But his remarks gave me pause to reflect.

There’s no doubt Birmingham’s gone through a transformation—a sea change in attitude and in self-confidence.

Until last year when the national media focused on Birmingham, the story always seemed to center on Bull Conner, Civil Rights, and the obligatory black and white film footage of dogs and fire hoses.

Now all of a sudden, we appear to be the world’s media darling.  Over the past year we’ve received a barrage of positive press from well-respected publications like National Geographic, USA Today, The New York Times, The LA Times and the Huffington Post.

In fact there have been so many positive pieces about Birmingham that many folks here may have quit paying attention.  It certainly doesn’t stop traffic like it once did.

Then there are all our successful projects and the many more on the drawing board–Railroad Park, Regions Field, Rotary Trail, the Lyric Theatre, Publix/Starbucks, The Thomas Jefferson, the Alabama Power Powell Avenue Steam Plant, Pizitz, The McWane Center Itty Bitty Magic City, and thousands of residential units.  Even the Uptown District has been a financial and entertainment success.

My goodness–we even landed the 2021 World Games.

Birmingham can seem to do no wrong!  But is it possible to maintain this kind of momentum without a misstep?

Not hardly.  That’s not real life.

Not every announced project’s going to happen and some of our developments will fail.

So what? Even cities we covet like Nashville and Charlotte don’t bat 100%.

So, yes, Birmingham’s going to stumble.  And with our fragile self-esteem, how are we going to react?

Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.  It’s not how many times you fall down that counts, it’s how many times you get up.

Birmingham once was truly the “Magic City,” but we couldn’t sustain our growth.  We’ve always been on  the verge of greatness–but something always seems to get in the way.

Let’s keep plugging along–but understand that we’ll have our ups and downs.

Let’s manage our expectation and then maybe one day Birmingham will reach its potential.

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, 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).

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5 thoughts on “Is Birmingham becoming too cocky?”

  1. *Hi, David. 

    As always, a good and reflective article. What I would offer is that the word ‘cocky’ isn’t quite on the mark. I would instead say is the city suddenly has a little ‘swagger’ instead. 

    To me, that’s much preferable to the continuous stream of apologies we’ve had to make for ourselves over the course of my lifetime. Suddenly, we are on the cusp of being a rather cool city in which to live, a nascent Austin or Nashville in terms of its life. You can see it in our emerging downtown, in our up-and-coming music scene, and an explosion of interest in the city’s cultural life. 

    Absolutely, we’ll have setbacks. But the only way to not have setbacks is to not try. And this is a town that is really trying hard to shake off the past and become something truly beautiful and special. 

  2. *How is uptown considered a success?  The place is a complete ghost town past 8pm on a week night and every restaurant has their rent subsidized or completely covered by the city.  That seems like a big time miss to me. Why not focus on fixing antiquated tax laws to allow some realistic private dollars to flow into the city (and by no means do I mean tax credits that have been way too plentiful). Finally, how is a dirt trail that hasn’t seen any construction in months and months a successful project? Start, complete 50 percent, and stop for half a year will not equate to success. 

  3. David Sher, please answer the following:

    Why don’t you live in the city of Birmingham?

    Why are your companies not renting/owning space and offering employment in downtown Birmingham?

    Why don’t you use your ties to the corrupt BBA, legislators, et al, to try to foster change?

    Why don’t you ask Brian Hilson why he recruits businesses to Huntsville when he is supposed to lead a Birmingham economic group?

    1. Birmingham Only. You’ve asked some good questions and I appreciate your passion for Birmingham. The objective of is to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham with an emphasis on better government. I believe our ultimate goal should be to have some sort of consolidated regional governance like Nashville and Charlotte–who have left us far behind. If we had a regional governance, my residence in Vestavia would be in Birmingham. Why should you or I have to choose amonst 35+ cities to live in Jefferson County?

      I work with two companies–Buzz12/Intermark which is located downtown and AmSher which was located downtown, but was forced to moved because of building safety concerns by the City of Birmingham. My brother and I hope to develop some downtown property in the immediate future. Wish us luck.

      I am on the Board of the BBA–but I believe the Board has over 100 members. Power and influence comes from executive committee. You and I may not agree with everything BBA does, but it is not carrupt.

      I work very hard through this blog and my relaltionships to foster change. You are free to judge how I’m doing.

      Again, thanks for your passion for Birmingham.

  4. *I really enjoyed this blog post! 

    I’ve lived in Birmingham my whole life and love to hear about growth, future plans, and the success of our Magic City! I am a leasing agent with RentMonster and I am excited as hell to let people know about all the great spots that Birmingham has tucked away.


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