What I’ve learned about Birmingham, Mtn. Brook, & people

Mountain Brook Village
Mountain Brook Village

It’s been a wild ride publishing ComebackTown.

I never dreamed publishing a weekly blog about how to create a more prosperous Birmingham could be so challenging—but so DARN interesting!

I’ve learned so much about human nature, Birmingham, and our suburban neighbors.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered.

When people don’t like what you say—some attack you personally

I’ve long since gotten over it, but at the beginning, I was hurt that people attacked me rather than my opinions. I was prepared to defend my ideas—but have had to get use to folks questioning my character.

I also take a lot of ‘heat’ for not living in the City of Birmingham.

I live in Vestavia Hills and previously lived in Mountain Brook, but have always considered myself a Birminghamian. Some people feel since I don’t actually live in the city limits of Birmingham that I have no right to have an opinion.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me—in fact, I don’t necessarily agree with everything I write. My only intent is to create a conversation about how we might have a more prosperous metro Birmingham.

There are people who hate Birmingham no matter what

It doesn’t make any difference what happens in Birmingham; there are some folks who feel compelled to make racially inspired attacks on Birmingham. I feel no need to prove this point. If you’re reading this piece on Al.com, just skip to the comments section and read the nasty comments—they are always there.

Some people don’t believe you when you say you’re NOT trying to combine cities or schools

Because there’s been very little job growth in greater Birmingham, a major objective of ComebackTown is to encourage our municipalities and government agencies to work together. According to the recently released Community Foundation report, we have many collaborative options that don’t involve combining cities or schools.

However, many readers think this is a trick to sneak in unified government and combine our schools.

There is absolutely no option being considered that would combine schools–or to consolidate municipalities.

Provocative headlines significantly increase readership

I’m often asked why I often publish provocative headlines.

You’ve heard the old saying, “It if bleeds it leads.”

It takes titles like, Birmingham needs to get the hell out of Alabama or Alabama must think we are chumps (and we are), to get people’s attention.

There are folks who live in the suburbs who think the Birmingham name doesn’t impact them

When someone from out of state asks me where I’m from, I always say Birmingham. And I bet you do too. Virtually no one outside our area has heard of Trussville, Homewood, or Vestavia Hills.

So it’s a mystery to me why some people who live in the suburbs don’t think they are associated with Birmingham.

I published a piece, “Did Bear Bryant block Birmingham’s aspirations? I said we’re losing SEC media days as an annual event to other cities beginning with Atlanta. A commenter responded, “David, Birmingham did not lose the SEC Media Days, Hoover did. You speak as if the whole freaking area is already Birmingham.”

It’s true that SEC Media Days has been headquartered in Hoover, but the fact is that all of us in Birmingham are losing it.

Often negative people comment—positive folks generally don’t

Most Birminghamians love our city and like living here, yet 90% or more of the comments—particularly on Al.com—are negative.

Where are the good folks—why do good people remain silent?

People are intrigued with Mountain Brook

People love to read about Mountain Brook.

Four of the most read and five of the top ten ComebackTown blogs have included the words ‘Mountain Brook’ in the title.

A lot of people care deeply about Birmingham

 When I first published ComebackTown nearly seven years ago—I thought I would try it for a few weeks and see what happens.

The response was immediate.

I found out quickly that people want to know what’s going on in Birmingham and how to make it better.

Within one month Al.com graciously offered to republish it.

Since then the readership has grown exponentially.

Last year ComebackTown articles had over a million page views and many pieces were republished by The Birmingham Business Journal  and other publications.

No one wakes up in the morning and hopes they will get more e-mails—yet the number of subscribers to the ComebackTown newsletter continues to grow. (To sign up–click here). When we have an opportunity to mobilize people who care about Birmingham this e-mail newsletter is loaded and ready to go.

Greater Birmingham is a wonderful place to live.

Let’s keep the conversation going—we’re getting better all the time.

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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18 thoughts on “What I’ve learned about Birmingham, Mtn. Brook, & people”

  1. David, thanks for the energy, thoughts, intentions and efforts you have invested in provoking actions to make Birmingham better!

  2. Another thank you, David, for keeping this conversation going. It’s necessary.

    One thing I learned a while back – good news and actions that people are satisfied with are generally accepted as is. They are not objected to. No news (and no reaction) is good news. One should carry on what one is doing.

    If you get reaction, you’ve generally hit a nerve – and that indicates something that needs attention in order to move forward.

  3. David, Thank-you so much for what you do. I wrote the Homewood Citizens Association newsletter for nearly thirty years and counted myself blessed by whom my enemies were. Always people who didn’t agree with me, of course, usually public officials and their cronies. Bob Blayock, who lived in Homewood, told me that he wouldn’t know what really was going on in Homewood if it weren’t for the newsletter. Hope you keep Comeback Town” around for many years. And Birmingham is “coming back” from where it was when I moved here in 1969. I love being here. Thanks, again.

  4. Thanks for not giving up on Comeback Town after the first few weeks of giving it the old college try, despite some of the backlash that’s happened. I’ve been a subscriber since it first came out seven years ago, and it’s the breath of fresh air that I need to keep believing in and working towards Birmingham’s brighter future.

  5. David I did not bother reading the rest of your article because I pretty much already new the gist. There’s never been a city or metro area the size of Birmingham metro that can survive without unity, quality mass transportation, education, and cohesiveness. You would think the ones that are resistant to change, change that should have occurred decades ago, are a dying breed, but apparently they are not dying quickly enough.

  6. David, thanks for creating (and continuing) this great conversation. I have enjoyed getting to know you and really appreciate your passion for Birmingham which I now share. See you around the City soon!
    Thanks again,

    1. Marshall, I also appreciate our new found friendship and our shared passion for Birmingham. As the older generation retires and passes on, the young folks like yourself will create a new vision for our region.

  7. David
    I also say I live in “Birmingham” even though my zip code doesn’t agree! My zip code “suburb” by itself could not possibly financially support a symphony, a zoo, an airport, etc, etc etc.. but I benefit from those things. So yes, I live in Birmingham ( metro area).
    Thank you for your dedication to keeping the dialogue going. You are a brave soul.

    1. Susan, I couldn’t agree more. If the city of Birmingham were go away, all of our suburbs would have no way to exist. I appreciate your positive comments.

  8. David,

    For 31 years I’ve proudly said that I live in Birmingham, Alabama as I have traveled for business and pleasure across this nation and around the world. In those 31 years I’ve seen cities like Nashville, Jacksonville and Portland, who were the same size as Birmingham when I arrived, eclipse my city in growth and prominence. Both Nashville and Jacksonville have NFL teams and their quality of life has grown exponentially. Portland has one of the most progressive transit systems in the nation and their small business base is very impressive.

    What’s the difference between those cities and ours? First, like Birmingham they are not one city, but a group of cities who identify themselves with a singular name that most other people know. Those groups of cities formed regional cooperative governments that save money on public services and pool their economic development resources to attract new business to their respective regions. They grow together in cooperation because whether you are in business or government, it just makes sense.

    I have read your blog since the beginning and I keep cheering for you in the hopes that maybe you will be able to make an impression on those who would squander our collective futures in order to continue to root themselves in the divisive ideas of the past that have moved Birmingham (the collective Birmingham) to the back of the line.

    I am heartened by how much Birmingham proper has changed for the better in the last several years. One can hope that the turnaround will continue until the old guard’s perception changes and perhaps there will be a renewed effort to finally come together to compete and move our entire area forward. I’ll keep reading and hoping if you’ll keep writing!


    Mark Griggs

    1. Mark, thanks for your thoughtful note. Birmingham has such great potential. We are making progress, but we need to stay behind our elected officials to make sure they understand that we will be more prosperous if we work together!

  9. Another good article. I appreciate a previous article that nailed it when the author mentioned Millennials are leaving the area. This is a painful reality. This should impact every article going forward. I have been told all my life by many Alabamians, Mt Brook(MB)is a utopia. Ironically, the young inside the MB utopia…the grass looks greener outside of Mt. Brook. Interesting perspective. Generation Y and Z are big game changers that are more about an experience, automation, mobility, they are more environmentally conscious and they are rightfully suspicious of the education system models (public and private). Marketing research has proven they do not have the same desire/loyalty to the same big toys/zip codes/legacy organizations nor will they work till they drop to support this lifestyle. Unless the powers in AL think in those terms/concepts about our cities being unique vs just copying some other trendy model or cause ie: Austin, TX or Boulder, CO…AL cities cannot win based on pure competition and will loose even more of the next generations. We will be a nursing home utopia if the trend continues.

  10. David, I do get your newsletter but also sometimes read your comments on AL.COM as well, it’s the same thing of course and your right, for some reason you get a lot more negative comments on AL.Com then on your subscription newsletter. Maybe it’s because AL.COM lets users comment anonymously, I don’t know. I now call it the Birmingham Old News and dropped my paid subscription but that’s another story. My family was one of the first to live in Vestavia back in the 1950’s grew up there but moved to Atlanta around 1970 and lived there for 35 years, watched that town grow up literally. I never had a desire to move back to Birmingham although I visited frequently because of family and friends. That changed about 12 years ago when I moved back and ended up in Hoover. It’s been very refreshing. People seem to always bring up problems here and how they compare to Atlanta. I tell them to just look at what Atlanta has done wrong, traffic, sprawl, hell the whole town is on the verge of running out of water, and not do that! Maybe it takes someone that has lived outside of Birmingham to tell folks how good they have it here. Of course they probably wouldn’t believe me, there are a lot of doubters filled with negativity. But I do know this, today, Sunday, I’m on the way down to the Vulcan Aftertunes concert overlooking Birmingham, Friday I went to the Greek Festival in Birmingham and Thursday I was at the Brookwood Live concert in Homewood. Tomorrow I’m making a sales call on the new Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer.
    “There are folks who live in the suburbs who think the Birmingham name doesn’t impact them”
    These people need to think again and realize the true potential Birmingham has and where it can go.

    1. Mike, I have family, including a grandchild, in Atlanta and visit often–so I clearly understand your feelings. I’m so glad we have you back in Birmingham and that you are happy. I am currently in the process of writing a piece about all the great things we take for granted here. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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