Birmingham mayors prove to the world we’re not bonkers

BonkersPaying attention to feedback from others with a broader point of view often offers insight.

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 abouBirmingham 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)

  • Argo
  • Bessemer
  • Birmingham
  • Brighton
  • Center Point
  • Clay
  • Fairfield
  • Graysville
  • Homewood
  • Hoover
  • Lipscomb
  • Midfield
  • Mountain Brook
  • Mulga
  • Pleasant Grove
  • Sylvan Springs
  • Tarrant
  • Trafford
  • Trussville
  • Vestavia Hills
  • Warrior
  • West Jefferson

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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7 thoughts on “Birmingham mayors prove to the world we’re not bonkers”

  1. The economic growth is coming in the form of retail and housing. While the population of Birmingham is growing slowly, people, especially the younger crowd (30 and under) have been renting rather than buying. Disposable cash comes from inheritance and rather than be strapped with the burden of home maintenance renters have no maintenance issues. There have been no major employers announced except for Amazon and guess who they are going to kill? You got it, retail. Now for the bigger economic picture. I am a Certified General Appraiser, I have been appraising commercial and residential property for the past 26+ years. In 2003, the bankers met with builders and told them to stop banking their business, hunker down. The bankers warned builders, but neglected to warn the general public of the impending doom. Now the same thing is happening in the commercial spectrum of real estate. Our local commercial data indicates multiple property buys (Portfolio buys) mainly from out of state. Investors who have money are looking for alternative investments other than a volatile and unstable/unpredictable stock market so they move their money to REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and use the money to pool together property to buy, the result, inflated prices. The commercial market in Birmingham has been, in my opinion, a bubble for about 2 years, with Amazon coming, that bubble very well may burst soon. I am not sure of the impact of Amazon in regional markets since the behemoth has only a few stores, but then again, so did Walmart and they weren’t as influential. Forget that fact that Amazon doesn’t pay any taxes, they won’t in Bessemer either, yet city leaders thought it’d be good to have $15/hr jobs for people in Bessemer… until Amazon automates then those jobs go away. But I digress, the big picture is this, the commercial market is not faring well. Ask a broker, and you will most likely to hear that I am crazy, but I look past all the glitz and glitterer and forecast into the future and what I see on the horizon is not good for Birmingham. I hope I am wrong, but with the inverted yield curve, cheap money, risky loans being made, the writing is on the wall. Investors are using REIT money to buy large portfolio loans and packaging them with riskier loans, sound familiar? When individual investors pose “opportunities” with a REIT and paint a beautiful picture of high returns and they are using local money or even worse market money that is a sign of an active market, appreciating values, and people questioning “how can they afford it”. Answer, they can’t and when Amazon opens, when the 1,000,000+ sq.ft. of retail business comes online within the next year, what is going to happen? Buckle up Birmingham.

    1. Kinda confused by your post. I believe something that sounds kinda similar to what I think you’re saying. I believe Birmingham is not fairing near as well as many people and articles would lead you to believe because there’s nothing to sustain the new “glitz and glamour” of the new “renaissance”. New breweries, updated hotels, and a couple new restaurants are awesome! But you’re not bring new people, new jobs, new money into the city so what’s going to sustain it? It’s like me going to buy a new BMW without a raise. Sure i CAN afford one, but it doesn’t mean im doing better or getting richer. In fact, eventually, my overspending, with no new income, will bankrupt me. ESPECIALLY if more companies continue to exit.

      1. Sherbear, I totally agree with your comments. But if the mayors get together and we start working as a region rather than against one another, we have a much better chance of success.

  2. Divide up Irondale Al. It has failed want sign the non compete, still operates it on garbage disposal , has a vindictive , self-serving mayor with a big ego . The city council is dysfunctional and is a circus on agreeing to move forward. It seems to me that every time Irondale makes a decision they always seem to turn left when they should have turned right. There is know future for a city that does not have its own school system , Jefferson County has made sure of that , which use to be one of the best systems in education’s brought down during civil rights and has continued toward a spiral down just ashamed .

  3. No doubt the fragmentation has hurt -I favor consolidation n -but another hindrance for the Birmingham area is that it has a Rust Belt economy. The region has done well considering this. Given the opportunity, I imagine most transplants would rather move to Birmingham than to Charleston, SC where a white supremacist shot up a church four years ago or Memphis where MLK was assassinated or Montgomery where they tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. Things like this have happened everywhere but those last three cities I mentioned have image problems.

    1. I agree except for the Charleston part. They’re growing fast and it’s a really cool city with lots of things to do for young professionals. The food is outstanding and the whole Charleston vibe is deep. One idiot shooter won’t stop that.

      1. By the same token, Orlando has a huge tourism industry despite the gay nightclub massacre three years ago.

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