ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Jeffrey Bayer. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
I’ve always loved Birmingham…but quite frankly I’m disappointed.
I’m not talking about just the City of Birmingham—I’m talking about all of Birmingham—yes, all cities and counties.
Birmingham’s beautiful; our people are smart and generous; but it’s exasperating that we continue to lose our children, our businesses, and our jobs.
Metropolitan Birmingham is stagnant
The prestigious Milken Institute ranked the top 200 performing cities in the U.S. and our Birmingham-Hoover metro ranked 173rd.
Jefferson County has had virtually no population growth in 50 years and lost population last year.
Birmingham and Nashville
Birmingham’s having some successes. We at Bayer Properties invested $70 million into The Pizitz. The City of Birmingham put in $64 million to build Regions Field. But compare that to Nashville which the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) says has at least 30 projects estimated at more the $100 million each.
Why Birmingham is stagnant
Many of us thought we knew why Birmingham was stagnant, but now we know for sure.
The Public Research Council of Alabama (PARCA)—through a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham— just completed a one year economic study of metropolitan Birmingham and the results are clear.
“Nationally, a substantial body of research indicates that metro areas with more broad-based, cooperative governmental arrangements grow faster and generate greater prosperity than metro areas that are governmentally fragmented, divided into a multitude of independent municipalities.
Our central city of Birmingham is surrounded by more independent suburbs than any other southern city.
This pattern of fragmentation has consequences.”
It leads to duplication, creates intra-regional competition, concentrates economic advantage and disadvantage, and diffuses resources and leadership. It makes it difficult to arrive at consensus, pursue priorities of regional importance, or deliver services that transcend municipal boundaries.
It puts the metro area at a disadvantage.”
Our central city and suburbs are interlocked
The graph below compares job growth since 2000 in two groups of metropolitan areas.
The seven cities on the left are fragmented like Birmingham: a diminished central city ringed by a multitude of suburbs. In the fragmented metros, job growth ranges from 5 % to -12%.
The seven metros on the right have governmental structures that unite the region. In the more unified metros, job growth since 2000 ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent.
“The negative effects of fragmentation weigh not only on the center city but also on the metropolitan area as a whole. The fortunes of the central city and its suburbs are interlocked.”
Birmingham has options that don’t involve combining schools or municipalities.
The study looked at other cities who have overcome their segmentation by implementing changes in government structure.
We now have an opportunity to review those options and evaluate what might be best for Birmingham.
Please review the report—at least the executive summary.
Spread the word about the research. Talk with others and consider the possibilities.
Many people I talk with agree that Birmingham’s segmentation is a problem, but they think it’s impossible to change.
Negative predictions about Birmingham have been wrong
Some folks predicted our Summit Shopping Center would fail.
Others wailed that Railroad Park would fail.
Naysayers predicted Region Field would fail.
Now some of the same folks are certain our efforts towards regionalism will fail.
We are proving the Birmingham doubters wrong every day.
I challenge Birmingham
I challenge Birmingham to keep our progress moving forward.
The future of our community and our children depend on it.
Don’t believe me? Watch this 3 minute video…
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