Coronavirus: Turning point for Birmingham

Maury Shevin
Maury Shevin

Today’s guest columnist is Maury Shevin.

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Never has the expression “we’re all in this together” rung with more truth than during this COVID-19 pandemic.

News about the pandemic—its societal, political and economic consequences—pervades our every waking moment.  And, regrettably, it too often interferes with our sleep—and our dreams.

Is there anything “good” that can come out of this mess?  Only time will really reveal the answer to this question.  But, I want to take a moment now to reflect on what good may come to the City of Birmingham from all of the current mishegas.

In my judgment, Birmingham is well positioned to not only quickly rebound from the pandemic, but to grow as a result of it.  And, let me tell you why.

First and foremost, Birmingham retains its deserved reputation for world-class health care and research facilities that are on the cutting edge for treatment of and research into the cure for the virus.  This will make us a Mecca for the current and the next generation of scientists and researchers who will undoubtedly grow out of the pandemic.   So what?

Well, whenever there has been a singularly important event in our history, such event creates a generation informed by it and that wants to be a part of it.  In my parents’ generation, young people wanted to be soldiers and sailors  and Rosie the Riveters who would win World War II; and then the doctors and scientists who would discover the cure for polio.

The common goal of my generation was to become astronauts and win the space race against the Russians. And, then for my children’s’ generation—the 9/11 generation—many wanted to become the first responders or even intelligence officers to fight global terrorism. Crises inevitably generate results.  Birmingham will reap the benefit from this crisis.

Secondly, Birmingham enjoys a quality of life that is difficult to find in more densely populated cities. Let’s admit it: the weather during our March and April quarantine has been nothing short of glorious!   And with the physical space surrounding our homes that many of us enjoy—whether suburban or urban loft, apartment or condo—we do not live crammed-in on top of one another.

The anecdotal evidence is that many people in our extended families returned “home” to Birmingham from New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas and Houston—to wait out the storm.  I suggest that many of the young people who have come home are finding that the quality of life in Birmingham is remarkable.

Third, Birmingham enjoys an entrepreneurial and tech culture that is well serving us through this pandemic.  Whether it is the development of new and better personal protection equipment, or new and better methods for delivery of goods and services, Birmingham’s people and businesses are leaders.

And, what about those of us who have worked from home?  Once we found our rhythm, we have been able to use the many resources available to us here—in Birmingham—to be successful.

Finally, there is something more difficult to identify.  It is a quality in our DNA in the people of this City that encourages us to help one another when times are tough.  Yes, the government at every level plays an important role.  But, our faith communities and our social action agencies are the hidden gems.  People helping people, is what makes us special.

So, you may call me a Pollyanna.  However, I look at our parks and open spaces, at our entertainment venues and restaurants, at our colleges and universities, and at our start-up and established businesses—that will reopen—and, I am absolutely convinced that Birmingham is going to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic better positioned than ever before.

Maury Shevin—passionate about the City of Birmingham–lives, works, thinks and plays on Birmingham’s Southside.

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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 for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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9 thoughts on “Coronavirus: Turning point for Birmingham”

  1. This is an excellent positive prediction. There is plenty of reason stated that strongly indicates Birmingham will experience major improvement. I can only agree with all of the points.

  2. Maury Shevin, a real mensch. “Current mishegas” indeed.

    Lets us all hope and pray you are correct. Mazltof! And thanks!

  3. Maury:
    We’ve been sharing your sentiments among each other. Thank you for stating it so eloquently. I’m ready for the mishegas to end. But, not before we have the proper testing and supplies. I hope your predictions are correct!

  4. Putting the brash and foolish protesters aside, there can be strategies created for going back to work. Each business owner should be using imagination and experience to devise methods for putting employees to work while maintaining a safe environment. No one plan would fit all. Just as manufacturers design and build assembly line production, there should be a way to modify the past practices to build in separation of employees. Obviously, it won’t be as cost efficient, but weighed against the prospect of no production, a less profitable arrangement is better than nothing.
    The people at greatest risk, unfortunately, are the manual laborers, who have less intelligence, education, and means. What the wealthy fail to realize is how vital these people are in making our society and economy function. Who will collect the garbage, deliver the mail, or dig the ditches? Therefore, we should focus on helping those poor laborers learn how to protect themselves, provide safe means of transportation, safe sources of food, etc. The economic stimulus needs to start at the bottom of the workforce, no matter how you do it.
    There are ways to solve these problems caused by the pandemic. Too bad we have such an incompetent leader, who understands virtually nothing.

  5. Well said, Maury! This confluence of events looks like more than just a Pollyanna assessment to me.

  6. I have to disagree with your reasoning..

    1. world class healthcare/research: that’s nice but really not bring that many people in and other cities have this too.

    2. quality of life. Those people coming home from Chicaco, NYC, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Nashville, ATL, etc etc do not think this. The quality of life is “nice and slow” but nothing too impressive to those people. It’s more of a “oh that’s cute” kinda thing. But the lifestyle afforded to young professionals is nowhere near that which is found in those other cities. Birmingham is left in the dust big time. Most of them cannot wait to get back to their fun, big, bustling cities. These are the people who Birmingham wishes they could attract.

    3. Tech culture… Again, it’s no where NEAR the tech culture found in other cities.

    It really seems if Birmingham people wear blinders.

  7. Also, what is this “tech culture”? I feel like we way overblow the tech community here. Memphis added more tech jobs in May than Birmingham. In fact, one of the cities that has lost tech market share from 2010 to 2018 (that’s a comparative number – https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/03/technology-jobs-mapped-data-brookings-study/607519/).

    So while there might be a tech presence, its presence is overstated because the lack of other things going on. I literally just looked at 14 sites (including Forbes which is junk) and none of them listed Birmingham as a tech hub or somewhere anyone looking for a tech job would look.

    1. Now that I have re-read what Maury Shevin wrote, and the following comments, I have more I would like to add.

      First, the response by Steve Coleman is so fundamentally important and well stated that I think it should be given special emphasis. I would only alter his final line, because I believe that in our country we are surrounded on all sides, by unusually poor leadership, ill-informed and corrupt word manipulators. Governing has almost been forgotten. Even Birmingham has suffered through some of that.

      Beyond Steve’s response, I also think we have got to be far less
      negative and destructive, and far more constructive, positive and practical. What Steve has written is exactly that, right on point! That thought applies to the whole country and certainly Birmingham as well. There are major negatives such as the continuing complex and expensive uncooperative multi- municipal governments in the Metro area. Is this a mess of mixed up and confused people? or what? The small steps that have only begun are far to short of what a great and more focused vision of such a place as Birmingham should create for itself and implement. The vision could be the thinking that gets us away from the negative observation like I have just reported, and move more positively forward.

      I repeat myself when I say Birmingham is not, should not and never should even try to think about being a copy of any other city. It is pointless even to start thinking of it as some ‘type’ of city. Every city is unique in every way thinkable.

      There is now, paying attention to what a horror show has been invading all cities in the last weeks, another applicable point that comes to mind. To perhaps paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, it is not the color of the skin that counts, but the content of the person’s character. And to re-paraphrase that statement: it is not the skyline nor the numbers of people that count, or the money it is the content of its character that drives it forward and can make it a better place to live. Our future has to be far more than five years away.

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