ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a more prosperous Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Hoover City Councilor John Lyda. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on October 23rd. Three days later the proposal to move UAB Medical West to Hoover fell through and the hospital administration decided to build in McCalla on property it previously purchased.
The conversation of regional cooperation has been commonplace in the Birmingham metro area for decades, its roots traced back to the beginning of the urban sprawl that flourished in the 50’s, 60’s, and continuously since then.
Regrettably, the phrase “regional cooperation” has most often been rhetoric used in political campaigns, master planning processes, and feel good speeches.
While there have been glimmers of hope that the idea could one day be fully embraced, that it is possible to succeed as a segment of the metro area without doing harm to one’s civic neighbors, the movement has lacked a credible catalyst willing to take a stand and say, “Enough!”.
The City of Hoover now has the opportunity to be that catalyst; the hero the metro area has been longing for that could demonstrate how progress does not have to come with a price tag aimed at stiffing what should be a metro area ally. Rather, we have far too long made those allies our greatest competitors.
Up for consideration in Hoover is a proposal to pay an upfront $20 million cash incentive to lure Medical West Hospital from Bessemer to the Trace Crossings community.
While incentives have long been utilized to spur growth by investing in development and revitalization, this proposal is unique in that the offer hinges on the relocation of 1,100 Medical West jobs, moving them just 14 miles down the road from one neighboring city to another, and the removal of the central healthcare hub of Bessemer.
It goes beyond Bessemer, however, and also gives a swift kick in the shins to the western Jefferson County communities of Pleasant Grove, Hueytown, Midfield, Adger, Brighton, and Lipscomb.
This is about more than just healthcare. A loss of Medical West Hospital, Bessemer’s largest and most vital employer, would deliver a massive blow to the city’s bottom line, robbing their balance sheet of close to $500,000 in annual revenue generated through a 1% occupational tax.
It has been said that Medical West has already decided to leave Bessemer. That notion is disingenuous, at best. If an announcement were to come from Med West that they will be following through on their original plan to relocate to land they already own in McCalla, an annexation process to bring that land into the city limits of Bessemer would almost certainly soon follow.
There are seven elected decision makers on the Hoover City Council who may soon hold in our hands the keys to the future of healthcare for tens of thousands of Jefferson County residents.
Will we boldly stand and be the long awaited catalyst for change that illustrates how regional collaboration can work, or will we be conspirators in theft, paying a multi-million dollar bounty to steal from our neighbors?
Now more than ever across the Birmingham metropolitan area, it is imperative that we adopt the mindset that we must win together as one or we will all individually lose.
John Lyda is a lifelong Alabamian and a 23 year resident of Hoover and Jefferson County. He is a member of the Hoover City Council, currently serving in his 2nd term.
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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).
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