Today’s guest blog was written by Jeffrey Bayer.
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When we proposed the Summit Shopping Center, folks told us we were insane and the City of Birmingham was accused of being irresponsible for advancing us $5 million.
We paid back that loan within two years and currently the Summit pays the City of Birmingham over $15 million a year in taxes.
Then there was the ridiculous idea of developing a piece of property along Highway 280 called the “Dirt Pile.” Some Mountain Brook citizens tried to block it and folks in Vestavia Hills were so angry they sued to stop it. Today many of those same people shop regularly at Whole Foods or one of the many other successful merchants.
Folks thought we were crazy when we contracted to recruit tenants for Uptown. We were told that no upscale business could possibly survive in North Birmingham. Uptown is now fully occupied and the tenants are thrilled to be there.
Then we had the wacky idea of investing $70 million in an old deteriorating department store building in a part of downtown that had mostly been abandoned. The Pizitz is now open and it will transform downtown north of the railroad tracks just as Railroad Park and Regions Field did for midtown.
Another preposterous project for our Birmingham region
Now I’m proposing one more farfetched project—one that no one seems to think is possible—but would change Birmingham forever.
We at Bayer Properties regularly battle with out-of-state business prospects who say they do not want to risk coming to Birmingham because we’re not growing jobs or population.
And they are correct. It’s hard to believe, but we have fewer people employed in Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, and Walker Counties today than nearly a decade ago.
Why would a fast growing progressive company consider investing in a stagnant Birmingham when they could deploy their people and assets in cities that are having double digit job growth like Nashville or Charlotte?
According to American City Business Journal (parent company of Birmingham Business Journal) our metropolitan region is projected to increase in population by 4% over the next 25 years. That’s 4% total–not 4% per year.
Compare that to a projected 33% population growth for Huntsville, 49% Charlotte, 49% Nashville, and 98% Austin.
Birmingham is not doomed to stagnation
Our Birmingham region is in an employment rut because our unwieldy segmented governments work against one another.
I propose this year we begin a serious conversation about regionalism and/or regional cooperation.
Our young people are demanding change.
There are so many young professionals who would like to build their careers and families in Birmingham, but they can’t find good jobs here.
They are tired of hearing that regional cooperation is impossible.
They want and deserve more.
Birmingham once was a town with low self-esteem and a feeling of gloom, but we are beginning to smell success. Birmingham is in the midst of one of its biggest building booms in our history.
We are not doomed to low or no growth.
You may think that this sounds preposterous, but Birmingham will change forever in 2017.
Jeffrey A. Bayer, President and CEO of Bayer Properties, has fostered his organization into a national commercial real estate leader. Jeffrey’s a Birmingham native and an uncompromising Birmingham supporter.
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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).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.