I’m sick and tired of some people saying how bad Birmingham is.
I love our Birmingham region!
I constantly meet folks, who move here ‘kicking and screaming,’ but later refuse out of state job opportunities and retire here.
Birmingham retains its small town values and has a strong sense of community.
Quality of Life
I recently had a chance conversation with a young man who I’d never met.
He was born in Guam and his parents still live there.
He’s in the military–stationed in Birmingham.
Because of his military service—he’s lived in a lot of great places—like Hawaii.
He and his wife just had a baby.
When he leaves the military in eight years, he plans to make Birmingham home.
I asked, “Why Birmingham?” and he replied, “The people here are the most generous and hospitable I’ve ever met.”
Birmingham transplants recognize the value of our city—while we natives tend to take our blessings for granted.
When you need help
We hear stories about people falling down in the street in a big impersonal city and bystanders walking right over them.
That would never happen in Birmingham.
When you have a flat tire, are in an accident, or have some other misfortune–complete strangers by the dozens come to your rescue.
Over my lifetime I’ve found myself in difficult situations and have always been overwhelmed with the generosity and support of others. It’s our small town Southern way.
Our generosity is legendary.
Our United Way is ranked 4th in the nation in number of donors who contribute $10,000 a year or more. That’s more donors than much larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Our United Way raises more than $38 million annually.
As a United Way employee told me, “Our community is truly what we might call a ‘brother’s keeper’s community. We are not content to sit by and watch others fail.”
When you are ill
My wife was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in 2000. She’s doing fine now, but we believe she would not have survived if we didn’t live in Birmingham.
The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is the only National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer center in a four state area. I often hear stories of cancer patients who travel to one of the more well-known cancer centers only to be sent back to UAB for care.
And when my wife checked into Kirklin Clinic for chemo or other treatments, clerks were often surprised that she was from Birmingham since many patients travel hundreds of miles or more.
Ten medical specialties at UAB Hospital are ranked in the top 50 in the nation, according to the 2017-2018 Best Hospitals ranking from U.S. News & World Report. UAB topped several peer institutions, including Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina and Emory University.
You don’t want to get sick—but Birmingham is the place to be when you do.
Almost every day I drive down the mountain on Highway 31 from Vestavia Hills towards Homewood and I’m awestruck by the magnificent scenery below.
Visitors and newcomers to Birmingham are universally surprised by Birmingham’s beauty—mountains and greenery—and the most dazzling autumns and springs.
Great place to raise a family
The Birmingham region has many great suburbs with excellent schools and an unequaled quality of life.
Some folks are going to point to the shortcomings of the Birmingham School System—and that is a problem. But Birmingham City Schools have only about 23,000 students. This compares to poorly rated school systems in Nashville with 82,000 students or Jacksonville (Duval County Florida) with 128,000 students.
Many families in our region are able to give their children a high quality education without the added expense of a private school.
The 20 minute city
One of the biggest negatives to quality of life is to live in a city where you spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting and stewing in traffic.
We have family in Atlanta. We often travel to see them on weekends, a time when you’d expect little traffic, but that is not always the case. The traffic can sometimes be suffocating.
Birmingham has the reputation of being a “20 minute city.” You can get just about anywhere within 20 minutes.
“I live like a king in Birmingham!” That’s what a friend told me who just moved here from California. He said he could live in a mansion compared to his previous small cramped house.
According to the Birmingham Business Alliance, “Metropolitan Birmingham has leading public schools, nationally recognized museums and restaurants, all at a cost that is about 90 percent of the average national cost of living.”
Many embarrassing rankings for Birmingham are nonsense
Birmingham seems to be near the top of some really nasty lists: high crime, oppressive poverty, and poor education.
But it’s unfair to compare the urban City of Birmingham excluding its wealthier suburbs like Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills to cities with one county/city government like Nashville, Jacksonville, or Louisville where the richer suburbs are included in the totals.
Birmingham compares very well when you match metropolitan Birmingham (not just the city) to other metropolitan areas.
Pay it forward
Recently I took my granddaughter through the drive through at Chick ‘fil A in Hoover. The car in front ours paid for our meal. That is so typical Birmingham.
- Quality of life
- Generous and caring people
- State of the art healthcare
- Great place to raise a family
- Easy to get around
When you evaluate the attributes that really count, our Birmingham region may be the most livable in America.
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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 more prosperous Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org