Birmingham like a bathtub with no stopper

Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation
Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation Downtown Birmingham headquarters

If this  article doesn’t get your attention about the future of greater Birmingham—nothing will.

We all know how a bathtub works.

Water comes out of a faucet into a tub and as long as the stopper is engaged, the bathtub fills up.

But what happens if there is no stopper?Greater Birmingham might be described as a bathtub with ‘no stopper.’

If you are a regular reader of ComebackTown or have reviewed The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s report on regionalism, you are aware that Metropolitan Birmingham (7 counties) has had virtually no job growth this century.

We are losing businesses and jobs as fast as we can grow them.

Another one bites the dust

It was recently announced that the Kemper Corporation of Chicago purchased Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation. Infinity is one of Birmingham’s few remaining large public companies. In 2016 Infinity moved its headquarters and hundreds of employees into downtown Birmingham.

Before the Kemper purchase, eleven public companies were headquartered here.

Birmingham used to have 30 public companies.  We now have 10.*

As a frame of reference, while we have been losing public companies, Nashville headquarters 29.

Then last week I read in The Birmingham Business Journal  (BBJ) that Energen, another one of our public companies, “could face a proxy battle from a large investor that has previously suggested Energen should look to sell itself.”

Public companies are vital to Birmingham

The loss of a company headquarters takes a toll on a city. Fewer jobs; accounting and law firms discarded; and other support businesses replaced. But often overlooked is the loss of local charitable giving and the irreplaceable loss of public company employees who serve as community volunteers and leaders.

Regions Financial is an example of a model community minded public company.

Regions is the only Fortune 500 Company headquartered in Birmingham— and in Alabama.

Some folks are predicting that this could be a big year for banking mergers and acquisitions.

What would be the consequences if we lost Regions?

Most importantly this would put Region’s 9,000 local employees at risk. (BBJ’s Book of lists)

Then there are the scores of Birmingham non-profits that are supported by Regions both financially and with volunteers. Look at almost every non-profit board in our community and Region employees serve in leadership positions on almost all of them.

And if you look at charitable giving—Regions is always at or near the top. From the Regions Tradition Golf Tournament to Regions Field—Birmingham would be lost without Regions Financial.

The future of Birmingham is about to change for the better

You may not have noticed, but Birmingham is transitioning.

A new generation of leaders are  taking the lead.

You can see it in the new Birmingham Mayor and City Council and you can see it in newly elected mayors around our region.

These new leaders are not stuck in our past of low self-esteem, lack of trust, and racial divide.

I wrote last week about four over-the-mountain mayorswho are meeting quarterly to discuss how they can work with one another.

This could easily be the first step in a process to include more mayors.

We don’t have to combine our municipalities, our schools, or turn Birmingham upside down. All we have to do is talk with one another.

It’s time that we start working together as a region.

Please consider contacting the mayor of your city and let them know you are tired of our usual narrow-minded and selfish thinking.

Historically we’ve considered our next door municipality the competition—and you see where that has gotten us.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we would talk and work with one another!

*Birmingham’s 10 remaining public companies:

  • Vulcan Materials
  • Regions Financial Corporation
  • Medical Properties Trust
  • Energen Corporation
  • Encompass (Previously HealthSouth)
  • ProAssurance
  • ServisFirst Bancshares
  • Infinity Property & Casualty Company
  • National Commerce Corporation
  • Hibbett Sports

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-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. dsher@amsher.com.

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