That’s particularly true when it’s The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Brookings Institution, and the Milken Institute.
The Economist–Birmingham is divided and bonkers
Recently The Economist wrote a piece primarily about Birmingham.
The article was about segmented cities, but labeled Birmingham as ‘divided and bonkers.’
“Birmingham, Alabama…looks as if it was imagined by a deranged computer.”
“The result is duplication and waste as municipalities each pay councillors, police and fire departments, waste-collection agencies and school administrators to perform the same services. Cities are reluctant to co-operate even on menial things like waste collection, fearing an erosion of their independence.”
“Cities that are unable easily to expand their boundaries are poorer, more segregated, have higher concentrations of poverty, lower growth, worse municipal bond ratings and less well-educated workforces.”
The New York Times–Birmingham metro treading water
In December The New York Times wrote a piece about Birmingham and Nashville.
In Nashville…” Local leaders made some smart decisions like merging the city and county government in the 1960’s, allowing Nashville and its suburbs to work together rather than at cross-purposes.”
“A place like Birmingham hasn’t fallen off the map, but it’s been bypassed by these places that have moved into this more clearly defined second tier,” said Adam Kamins, an economist for Moody’s Analytics. “It’s treading water, and treading water tends to not be enough.”
Wall Street Journal–Birmingham’s growth lagging
The Wall Street Journal amplified the New York Times article.
“The population of the Nashville area has roughly doubled, and young people have flocked there, drawn by high-paying jobs…(while) Birmingham, by comparison, has steadily lost population… Once-narrow gaps in education and income have widened.”
The Brookings Institution–Birmingham facing a crisis
Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution, says “Birmingham is facing a crisis.”
The Birmingham Business Journal quoted Ms. Liu, “Your economy is smaller today than it was 10 years ago. On productivity, you’re actually less productive than you were 10 years ago…Generally, this region ranks near the bottom among all metros in terms of achieving an inclusive economic future.”
Milken Report–Birmingham metro 165th out of 200
As I reported in March, the prestigious Milken Institute in its 2018 ranking of the best –performing large metros in the U.S. ranked Birmingham 165th out of 200. (Birmingham metro is defined as Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, and Walker Counties)
How’s it possible for a beautiful Sunbelt region with a major research University to be ranked as one of the poorest performing major metropolitan areas in America?
Our mayors beginning to pay attention
But then in April– 22 bold and visionary Jefferson County mayors* did the unexpected and signed a document agreeing not to steal businesses from one another and pledging to work together.
With the potential of our mayors collaborating, we now have the opportunity to continue to live in our favorite city, but have the powerhouse strength to compete as a region.
A good first step
The Economist concluded, “For Birmingham, as for many ailing cities, the imperative is to overcome decades of narrow self-interest in pursuit of a more expansive sort.”
It appears the majority of our mayors have gotten that message loud and clear.
*Mayors of cities who have signed pledge: (Be sure and congratulate your mayor)
- Center Point
- Mountain Brook
- Pleasant Grove
- Sylvan Springs
- Vestavia Hills
- West Jefferson
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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 better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org