An epiphany about Birmingham’s economic future

An epiphany about Birmingham’s economic future

A savvy business friend made an observation about Birmingham’s economic future that really got my attention.

But before I disclose what he said, please review a list of Birmingham’s largest companies to determine what you think they all have in common.

Here’s a Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) list of Birmingham’s largest privately held companies ranked by revenues of over one billion dollars (2018):

  • Brasfield & Gorrie $3.31 billion
  • Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United $2.81 billion
  • EBSCO Industries $2.8 billion
  • O’Neal Industries $2.7 billion
  • McWane $2 billion
  • American Cast Iron Pipe Co. $11.3 billion
  • Robins & Morton $1.12 billion
  • Mayer $1.07 billion
  • B.L. Harbert International $1 billion

Now here’s a BBJ list of Birmingham’s public companies ranked by market capitalization of at least $1 billion (2018):

  • Regions Financial $20.54 billion
  • Vulcan Material $17.23 billion
  • Encompass $6.35 billion
  • Medical Properties Trust $5.11 billion
  • ServiceFirst $2.3 billion
  • ProAssurance Corp $1.98 billion

I could continue down the list of privately held and public companies and see the same commonality.

All are native to Birmingham–none were recruited.

Thirty years ago Birmingham headquartered 30 public companies. We now have 9—but every one of those public companies was born locally.

I must, however, mention one other institution—UAB–obviously also Birmingham born and bred.

UAB   dominates more than 100 square blocks on the Southside and employs 22,000 people. It has an enrollment of 22,000 students with an economic impact of over $7 billion.

I’ve made my case for UAB in many articles, but my favorite is What would Birmingham look like without UAB—Anniston.

Our politicians and economic development folks spend hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of exhaustive hours recruiting out-of-state companies.

But we need to flip our priorities–placing more emphasis on investing in start-ups, growing our existing businesses, and supporting UAB.

The good news is that our Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) has come to the same conclusion.

According to the BBJ, Fred McCallum, interim CEO of the BBA, announced that “One of the primary focuses going forward will be on business retention and expansion, especially with young firms because that is where sustainable economic growth comes from.”

An added benefit is by supporting our local companies, CEO’s and potential CEO’s from around the country will seek out Birmingham.

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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 for free about a better Birmingham.

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One thought on “An epiphany about Birmingham’s economic future”

  1. David: I love your concept of taking our “recruitment” dollars and investing them in home-grown, 21st Century, businesses. Supporting local, innovative entrepreneurs seems to result in creating a permanent or semi-permanent home for the successful ones–think Shipt. And, what great ripple effects come from such successes.
    Bruno’s 40 years ago created a cottage industry of start ups–a new drug store company, numerous food and beverage businesses and real estate developments.
    There is much to be said for supporting our local folks.

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