Homewood is hot!
Homewood has great schools, beautiful neighborhoods and friendly people. It’s convenient to just about everything and has a booming downtown. It seems like a new restaurant opens there every month.
The draw of many Homewood neighborhoods is so strong that some buyers and developers snatch up older homes, knock them down, and then build their dream home. Some developers are replacing single homes on a large lot with two, three or more houses.
Homewood may not appreciate its appeal
Homewood is in great demand, but doesn’t seem to know it. It wants to give away assets when it really doesn’t have to.
Take the case of Milo’s Tea* who is receiving incentives from Homewood to move about 50 of its executive and administrative staff from Bessemer to Homewood.
I have absolutely no information on Milo’s decision to move its executive and administrative staff to Homewood– so what I’m about to say is complete conjecture.
But my guess is the decision making process possibly went something like this…
Milo’s executives: “We’re growing and running out of space in Bessemer. Some of our top executives live over the mountain and it would be more convenient if we could move our offices nearby. It would also probably make it easier to recruit executive and administrative employees. And as a bonus, we can probably convince one of the over the mountain communities to help pay some of our expenses.”
Then Milo’s probably identified a good location in Homewood and then asked the Homewood City Council to subsidize some of its moving and construction costs.
And, as predicted, the Homewood City Council did approve a modest incentive package and the designated employees relocated.
Milo’s, however, has done nothing wrong.
Milo’s is a hometown hero–creating opportunities and growing jobs for our region.
What company would turn down free money? If Milo’s thinks it is best to move its administrative offices to Homewood, then it should do so.
But why should taxpayers subsidize its move?
Heck, I’m a business person. I wish a municipality would send some money my way.
Prosperity in Homewood at the expense of Bessemer
But most importantly, the incentives come at the expense of Bessemer. Bessemer is losing those better paying jobs.
This is suicide for our region.
Homewood and other municipalities that offer incentives to steal businesses from their neighbors are driving a wedge through the trust of our cities.
Homewood needs a regional champion like Hoover
Hoover recently was in discussion with UAB Medical West Hospital to move from Bessemer to Hoover. An incentive package of $20 million was discussed, but thanks largely to the objections of a regional thinking Hoover City Councilman John Lyda, the process was terminated.
Councilman Lyda wrote, “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?”
And it’s a good thing the process was terminated.
I understand that Bessemer and the other Western Jefferson County mayors were considering bringing a lawsuit to stop the process. We are already not working together–suing one another is worse.
We can’t keep stabbing one another in the back and prosper as a region.
The New York Times article about Birmingham
The New York Times recently published a piece comparing Birmingham’s malaise to Nashville’s successes.
Ben Casselman, the reporter, described how Nashville “…made some smart decisions like merging the city and county government in the 1960s, allowing Nashville and its suburbs to work together rather than at cross-purposes.”
He contrasted Birmingham’s recruitment of an Amazon fulfillment center offering jobs for about $15.00 per hour to Nashville’s recruitment of an operations center that will eventually employ 5,000 people at salaries averaging $150,000 a year.”
He also pointed out “that Apple said it would invest $1 billion in Austin, Tex., and could eventually employ 15,000 people.”
Imagine metro Birmingham’s possibilities if we worked together and pooled individual municipal incentives to recruit job rich new companies to our region.
Money down the drain
Over the past two decades our local municipalities have paid incentives of over $200 million dollars to companies to move across town or to stay where they are.
The result: No new businesses—no new jobs.
Let’s work together rather than against one another–we will all win.
*Milo’s Tea and Milo’s Hamburgers are two separate corporations and Milo’s Tea continues to expand its operations in Bessemer)
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 more prosperous Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org