Each year from 2002 to 2008 approximately 100 business and political leaders from Birmingham traveled to cities across the U.S.
The Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce BIG trips were designed to discover ideas that were successful in other cities that could be implemented here in Birmingham.
Much was learned, but every year we came home and lamented Birmingham’s stroke of misfortune.
Other cities are located near rivers, harbors, or other bodies of water.
If only Birmingham had a river!
So we asked the question, “What does Birmingham have that makes us different?”
Many cities were founded because of their rivers and waterways—Birmingham was founded because of the railroads.
Birmingham was incorporated on June 1, 1871, as the anticipated intersection of the North & South and Alabama & Chattanooga railroads.
Railroads are to Birmingham what rivers are to other cities.
We have a rich history of railroads—how were we to take advantage of that history?
Most of you will agree that the creation of Railroad Park was the primary catalyst that jump started Birmingham’s renaissance. (We even had an opportunity to add water)
Let’s build on Birmingham’s strengths
We may not have water, but we have other assets that are unique to Birmingham.
What do we have here that cannot be replicated? Rickwood Field, the oldest surviving professional baseball park in America; Vulcan Statue, the largest cast iron statue in the world; Sloss Furnace, the first industrial site (and the only blast furnace) in the U.S. to be preserved and restored for public use.
You’re not going to find these gems in Nashville, Atlanta, or Charlotte.
We have Red Mountain Park with miles of scenic trails and historic mines; Barber Motorsports, which brings in visitors from around the world, and a one-of-a-kind dirigible mooring station at the top of the Thomas Jefferson Hotel.
Or how about The Club’s multicolored dance floor that inspired the famous Saturday Night Fever dance scene with John Travolta?
These attractions are Birmingham specific. They are unique to Birmingham
It was once suggested that Birmingham build an aquarium—but a Birmingham aquarium would never be able to compete with Chattanooga or Atlanta.
We’ve debated building a domed stadium, but that’s not a game we are going to win either.
What can we win?
What are our strengths?
How are we unique?
Please brainstorm your comments below.
That’s how we’ll overcome Birmingham’s stroke of misfortune.
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David Sher is Co-Founder 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).