Every seat was full at the Harbert Center last week.
Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, one of the largest companies in the world, addressed a joint luncheon of the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs of Birmingham.
Rotarians and Kiwanians were thrilled to have the opportunity to see such an influential business executive– and hear him sing the praises of Alabama.
Yes, Immelt and GE love Alabama!
Immelt and GE love Nick Saban and Alabama football!
Immelt and GE love Alabama so much that GE recently invested more than $250 million in our state.
There’s only one problem…
None of that investment—not one penny—was in our Birmingham region.
Mobile and Huntsville got it all.
We’re all tired of attending one meeting after another where a company exec from Mobile or Huntsville comes to town to tell us how excited we should be for them and Alabama. And, yes, one day they may consider Birmingham.
Do people think we are loopy?
Why should we celebrate everyone else’s victories?
Where is that elusive home run for Birmingham?
Where is our Airbus–our Remington–our GE?
Read these numbers and weep…
Total Employment Birmingham 7 County Metro (Year End)
- 2006 535,600
- 2007 538,700
- 2008 525,300
- 2009 496,300
- 2010 495,400
- 2011 500,300
- 2012 506,500
- 2013 514,400
- 2014 516,900
- 2015 520,600
- 2016 524,800
Overall change 2006-2016 –2%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics and Economy.com. Employment figures are from the Current Employment Survey (CES). Unemployment rates are from the Current Population Survey (CPS). The figures are not seasonally adjusted.
If you’re in fast growing Shelby County, don’t get too excited—these job numbers include you too.
My business friends are building their businesses elsewhere because there’s no employment growth here.
We have cast this evil spell on ourselves.
Mobile and Huntsville work together–while we are divided.
When I was Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, we used to fly to Washington every year to present a list of priorities to our Senators and Congressional leaders.
Over the next several weeks there were competing trips by Jefferson County, the City of Birmingham, UAB, and Shelby County. One congressman told me that the list of priorities was different for every group. His recommendation, “You guys need to go home and figure out what y’all want!”
Meanwhile Huntsville and Madison County chartered two airplanes and flew 150 -200 business and political leaders to meet with their congressional leader as one unified group with a common agenda.
Our Birmingham Business Alliance (previously the Chamber) has discontinued these trips. I don’t blame them. Very little was accomplished.
As I write this piece, Wal-Mart announced plans to build a $135 million distribution center in Mobile, and create 550 full-time jobs.
In contrast,–and I kid you not– the same day’s Birmingham Business Journal’s lead story was the announcement of a new Vietnamese restaurant on 280.
2017 is our year
This year we will begin a serious conversation about community collaboration and cooperation.
Support that conversation—our jobs and our future depend on it.
I’m speaking publicly at the Bham Now BOLD speakers series on how to build our future– Thursday, April 13, upstairs at Avondale Brewery. Doors open at 5:30; speech at 6:00. Tickets are $10 advance; $15 at the door. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.
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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