Let’s step out of our ‘Little Kingdom’ and unite for a better Birmingham

Little KingdomComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham

Today’s guest blogger was written by a commenter who calls him/herself ‘bhamthoughts’.  

(ComebackTown generally does not publish anonymous blogs–but it’s difficult to find people willing to include their name when the content may be perceived as negative.)

 If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

I am not from here.

I wasn’t born or raised here, I didn’t go to a school that starts with an “A,” and you wouldn’t know my parents if they were standing right in front of you.

I am one of those rare people who have moved TO this city from somewhere else.  Now that I have been here a while, it’s no wonder our city isn’t growing and competing with the Nashvilles and Charlottes of the world.

Everything I mention below comes from a good place, these are just the realities of our community that we need to overcome if we ever want to grow like the rest of the country.

First, and most importantly, there are very few offerings that really attract people to our city (besides UAB and cost of living).

Over the past few years more large companies have moved out than moved in, and those jobs disappeared to other states.  The remaining quality jobs are hard to come by, even harder for someone who was not born in a 352– zip code.

Don’t underestimate how important that fact is; as people graduate and/or look to move, job opportunity is a huge part of the decision and will only be worse if we have a strong reputation for only hiring from local schools.  Forty nine other states also have institutions of higher learning, many rated well ahead of the beloved Tigers and Elephants.

While there is great momentum with Regions Field, the microbrew movement, and the food scene downtown, is that really enough to convince a new Fortune 500 company to relocate downtown?

Second, our headlines, and therefore national reputation, are embarrassing at best (see recent Uber handling). Our city government seems to march to their own drum, while taking one heck of a pay raise, and the surrounding municipalities can’t seem to get on the same page.

We are far from a united chorus for our part of the country, but more like little kids who fight over toys.  We won’t even talk about the bankruptcy debacle, but we all know it is still there.

Third, this city’s history is rooted in a past that emphasizes cultural differences and we seem happy to continue that pattern.  If we are honest with ourselves, not much has changed.  While race is still a hot button issue, we have chosen to add more things to the pot.  Auburn or Alabama, Mtn. Brook or Cahaba Heights, IronTribe or LifeTime, Democrat or Republican, the list goes on.

The point is that while there are multiple ways we choose to highlight our differences, there is nothing here serving as a uniting force.  What are we all proud of, what can all Birminghamians hang their hats on?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  We refuse to change, or open our arms to the outside workforce, yet wonder why we are getting passed by.

It’s time to pull our heads out of the sand and realize we are part of a bigger pie; let’s step out of our own “Little Kingdom.”

My hope is that someone, anyone, will try to make Birmingham a more user friendly place and help stop spinning our tires.

Otherwise no one is moving here and others will leave.

Let’s move this thing forward for the better, for the future, for our survival.

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 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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10 thoughts on “Let’s step out of our ‘Little Kingdom’ and unite for a better Birmingham”

  1. *It starts with people like you living within the city limits of Birmingham, voting in city of Birmingham elections, and starving the “little kingdoms” of the population and tax revenue they need to survive. 

  2.  Critiquing the community and city through a pseudonym without providing any possible solutions seems counterproductive to moving the city forward.

  3. I would have to agree with the sentiments stated. How is the best way to go about making that change? 

    I really like the idea proposed in the other article featured in today’s newsletter “Nick Saban Proves We in Birmingham are a Bunch of Suckers,” where Denver signed an intergovernmental compact with its local municipalities to not compete for business. I think it’s a great starting point, and ultimately I would really like to see a unified Birmingham area to dissolve those Little Kingdom division lines. 

    But how does an everyday, regular citizen who isn’t a part of the local government go about making that change? I genuinely want to know, so that I can finally go do something about it, after reading so many articles that state change is necessary. 

    Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful input and educating others on the issues at hand. I’m personally ready to be the change I want to see in the world. 

    1. Anna, Good for you! I’m so glad you would like to get involved to make Birmingham better. We are going through a process of educating as many people as possible on the root cause of our problems–segmented/dysfunctional government. By the end of the year, we hope to have a plan in place and get everyone involved. Please let others know about ComebackTown and encourange them to sign up for our newsletter. https://www.comebacktown.com/enewsletter-sign-up/ When we’re ready to mobilize, we will need all hands on deck. Please continue to give your feedback.

  4. *This was an absolutely worthless post.  This anonymous individual offers nothing but some whining and regurgitated complaints.  This wasn’t the least bit insightful and I am surprised you would deem this worthy of a guest blog.  Go build a business and hire people, go volunteer at any one or number of our incredible charitable organizations, go make something happen and contribute to our community.  I honestly wouldn’t mind the anonymity of the post if the author had anything to contribute.

    1. James, I’ve received quite a bit of criticism for publishing this piece. But I have a difficult time getting people to openly author negative pieces about Birmingham. It is not my intent for us to put on rose colored glasses when looking at Birmingham. We’re certainly not perfect. My goal is to create a healthy conversation on how we can make a better community. My hope was to get a robusr rebuttal–and you will see that rebuttabl next week on ComebackTown. Thanks for your comments. I welcome your feedback good and bad.

  5. *I’ll just comment on one item.  “Not much has changed”.  That drives me crazy.  All one has to do is have lunch at a neighborhood “meat and 3” of which there are many around Birmingham.  You can’t get much more “local” than that.  The mix of patrons having lunch together, socializing together, would have been unheard of 40 or 50 years ago.  It is in no way remarkable or unusual any more.  That is just one example.  We HAVE come a long way.  Can we go further?  Of course, everyone can.  

    By the way, the “small kingdom” (and “large kingdom”) goes all the way back to Tommy Charles and Doug Layton and their radio station and presence.  They were promoting cooperation, merger, working together a very long time ago.

  6. *David, I’m another “come-from-away” who has been here as long as your anonymous post author. Everything he or she identifies is true. Everything. 

    For those who wish to criticize my critique, I’ll add that I’ve sunk a couple of years into helping start some of the “tech culture” pieces needed to make this community an attractive place for those working in tech. So, yeah, I have a stake in all this. 

    I want to see this region do better. I see a few more things that hold it back. 

    There are two distinct acquaintanceship networks in the city. White. And black. There is some overlap, but not enough. And that is because there still are not enough places where people live next to and interact with each other on a day to day basis, outside of work. Where they get to know one another, where they break bread together. I’ve seen this developed where I lived in Canada – it doesn’t just happen – you have to lay out civic frameworks to encourage it and cultivate it. And from what I’ve learned, I greatly fear that this won’t happen until certain Mountain Brook dinosaurs with their hands on the purse strings kick the bucket. 

    There has to be some equality in those interactions. Right now, I see access to venture capital, business lending and inclusion on university-related networks* and one of the things holding back entrepreneurs from the African American community. There aren’t the same stashes of family wealth as there are in Mountain Brook. 

    There is a very low newcomer rate in the region. 3.4% of the city population is foreign-born, as compared to 3.5% for state, and 9.5% for the country. This compares to 20.6% for my home country. In part, this reflects employment opportunities. But the result is local civic and state systems that don’t see a need to explain how things work to those who are new to them, and who have no focus on user-friendly processes.

    I hear constant complaints about those with foreign-accented English being hard to understand. Guess what? I have trouble with some of the English spoken here – and it’s my native tongue! It’s a matter of training your ear. When you are around people speaking with many different accents, you learn to adjust. 

    I don’t expect “kum-bi-y’all” – but I’ll throw out to those ensconced in the suburbs that your suburbs won’t thrive unless the city core thrives — and that means investing in infrastructure and the things that make a metro region work well. 

    I expect that there will be pushback regarding what I’ve said. But I stand by it. Nothing — and no one — is perfect. You have to have a realistic assessment of where you are starting if you are going to move forward successfully. 

    * If you aren’t part of the U of A or Auburn alumni networks, it’s uphill work to establish one’s street cred. You who are all in that network don’t see this – those of us outside of it – and who aren’t connected to UAB – see it loud and clear. 

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