Metropolitan Birmingham is the only one of our peer cities to lose jobs from 2001-2010 and from 2011-2013 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Many folks feel the reason for our poor job performance is too many competing governments.
Why don’t we do something about it?
Because most people feel some sort of government consolidation is impossible.
However, two of Birmingham’s most respected leaders agree that change is critical to our future. Both Jay Grinney and General Charles Krulak have tackled and accomplished tasks that others thought were hopeless.
Jay Grinney rode into Birmingham on a white horse in 2004 to save HealthSouth.
HealthSouth was on the verge of bankruptcy when Mr. Grinney became President and CEO. HealthSouth stock was selling for pennies and very few analysts thought the company would survive. Today HealthSouth is solid—making acquisitions—and its stock is selling for over $40 a share.
Mr. Grinney spoke to the Rotary Club of Birmingham recently. After he made his prepared remarks, I asked him…
“It’s truly amazing what you and your team have accomplished at HealthSouth, but over the past fifteen years, Birmingham has lost about half its public companies while Nashville has become a hotbed for the healthcare industry. We very much appreciate you and HealthSouth sticking with Birmingham. If you could wave a magic wand–what would you do to make Birmingham competitive with our peer cities?”
Here’s Mr. Grinney’s response…
“I’m a very big believer that we would be much better positioned as a community if we could unify our very diverse government base. It makes no sense to me. I think there’s a lot of very strong arguments that would support and demonstrate that other communities have taken the bold step of bringing disparate local governments together are creating a much stronger economic platform for economic growth. That would be the wand that I would wave.”
General Krulak agrees
General Charles Krulak, the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corp, marched into Birmingham in 2011, guns a blazing, to save Birmingham Southern College (BSC) from a financial meltdown. Today, as General Krulak retires his presidency of Birmingham Southern, BSC is vigorous, strong, and financially secure.
Recently General Krulak was asked by the Birmingham Business Journal what it would take to make Birmingham better. Here’s what he said…
“You can’t grow Birmingham like you want when you have a city and surrounding area that is so fragmented. The idea that you have 17 or 18 police departments, fire departments, you name it, it’s not the way a city like this should exist.”
Both Grinney and Krulak understand that too many competing governments make us weak and vulnerable.
Both men have proven that sometimes you have to attack difficult tasks that others feel are impossible.
Birmingham’s making a remarkable comeback. We’re beginning to feel good about ourselves.
Birmingham’s been called the city of perpetual promise, but we always seem to stumble. This could be our big chance.
Changing our government structure may be difficult—but strong leadership and a motivated community could make it happen.
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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).