Now is Birmingham’s time

Birmingham (Photo by Izzy Gould, lgould@al.com)
Birmingham: New Protective Stadium in foreground (Photo by Izzy Gould, lgould@al.com)

I had an interesting conversation with a life-long friend.

I was fretting about Birmingham’s inability to keep pace with other regions.

He said I was totally missing what is about to happen.

He warned that many high profile American cities and regions appear to be headed for trouble and that Birmingham would benefit.

He suggested I do some research…so I did…

New Orleans, Louisiana

The future of New Orleans is tenuous.

Ida was the sixth tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana since the start of 2020.

According to an article in the New Yorker “New Orleans is sinking. The city was built on marshland, and …the surface is dropping. Much of the city is already significantly below sea level…In 2019, the Corps announced that…the system it had just finished upgrading would no longer provide adequate protection to the city as early as 2023.

Miami, Florida

Miami is facing a perilous future.

A Scientific American piece, saysnew modeling by Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonpartisan economic think tank, reveals that ‘100-year floods’ could occur every few years rather than once a century. Miami will…become ‘the most vulnerable major coastal city in the world,’ RFF said, with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets under assault from winds, storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise.”

New York City

New York City likely to have serious problems ahead.

A Penn State University climate scientist, Dr. Michael E. Mann told Salon, “In a worst case scenario, much of Manhattan would be submerged by 2300 if current greenhouse gas emission rates are not curbed.”

And the Western states…

Water shortages

The Smithsonian warns that Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead continues to hit record-low water levels because of a severe drought sweeping through the western United States. A water shortage will result in “large water cuts…to major cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Las Vegas obtains about 90 percent of its drinking water from Lake Mead…”

Wild fires

Watch the news and you see thousands of people escaping the ever increasing number of wildfires in California, Texas, Arizona, Montana, and elsewhere.

Earthquakes

And according to the California Earthquake County Alliance, The most comprehensive statewide analysis of earthquake probabilities determined that the chance of having one or more magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquakes in California over the next 30 years is 99.7%.

Birmingham a solid option

None of us are rooting for environmental disasters, but if they do occur, Birmingham’s poised to be a solid option.

Located in the heart of the Sunbelt, Birmingham is within driving distance of both mountains and beaches and has four distinct seasons with glorious autumn days and Technicolor springs.

Birmingham’s people are smart and generous and we have some the best healthcare in the world.

Often called the ’20 minute city,’ Birmingham is easy to get around.

Another benefit for Birmingham: Atlanta, Georgia is nearby, and with some leadership and vision, high speed rail could create incredible opportunities for us.

Birmingham primed and ready to go

Railroad Park opened in 2010 and Birmingham began a transformation.

Regions Field, Rotary Trail, Uptown, The Pizitz and Food Hall, The Lyric, Red Mountain Park, Protective Stadium and the soon to be completed Legacy Arena and CityWalk BHM. Our downtown I59/20 bridges have been rebuilt and we’ve opened a modern airport.

UAB continues its expansion. Bars and restaurants are opening everywhere. There’s non-strop construction all the way west to I-65 on the Southside. Birmingham’s downtown and midtown’s populations are growing day by day.

And our Birmingham region is coming out of COVID stronger than ever. There are scores of major projects in the works—including mixed use developments around old Carraway Hospital, the former Trinity Medical Center, and Southtown.

In a post COVID world, many workers will likely be able to live anywhere.

Birmingham appears to be at the right place at the right time.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  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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6 thoughts on “Now is Birmingham’s time”

  1. As a descendent of a prominent Birmingham family, (Grandfather , Chief of Police of City of Woodlawn and first Captain of Detectives, Birmingham), and refugee of the 1960’s aftermath, I read with great interest and hope your premise.

    Unfortunately, the term “whistling pass the graveyard” comes to mind.

    I moved to Atlanta (kicking and screaming) back in 1975. At that time, “Thank God, we’re not Atlanta” was the unofficial city motto. But I realized that to the young newly college educated minds of the Southeast, Atlanta represented a working model of diversity and opportunity for growth and economic prosperity.

    Mind you, in the 1950 Census, Birmingham was BIGGER than Atlanta. The Atlanta Rotary Club was founded by the Birmingham Rotary Club. Those were the last days of “The Magic City” and the beginning of “Bombingham”.

    Much the same I currently see in the development of Nashville. Another city that I don’t see on your comparison list. In the 1970’s, Nashville was home of the Grand Ol’ Opry and the State Capital, and that was about it. Certainly not an attractive opportunity for the future in comparison to “The City Too Busy to Hate.”

    So, what do I see that Birmingham has done right? First, my hometown managed to replace it’s Rust Belt Steel economy with a medical industry based economy. And it did this without tearing down it’s beautiful buildings from the turn of the century growth spurt. Birmingham has developed a food and hospitality industry posed to rival New Orleans in the 21st Century.

    What does Birmingham (city) need to do to actually rival it’s real competitors which I see as Nashville, Memphis, Huntsville, and Atlanta? Unfortunately, I’m not the guy to ask since I don’t have the current on the ground knowledge of Jefferson County,

    But, as a retired commercial real estate broker, I’d advise getting the city population closer to a 50/50 split, and if that non-Black 50% includes substantial Asian-American and Hispanic-American segments, so much the better.

    Next, attack what I still see as the “Over the Mountain” mentality. Building a rapid rail line between Downtown (from the BJCC) and the Galleria would be a massive new backbone for the growth of Birmingham and the entire Metro Area. Add a second rail connecting downtown Bessemer would be a potential game changer.

    Will it happen? Frankly, as long as the State of Alabama is the political cesspool that it is, I doubt it. But, Huntsville gives me hope there is a way forward. I hope you find it.

  2. David, your friend expressed concern about Birmingham “not keeping pace with other cities.” Your response was that Birmingham is already a good city, but you did not address his concern about “keeping pace with other cities.”

    Conventional wisdom values growth, and there are many benefits to growth such as retaining children and grandchildren, bringing new ideas, and enriching the local culture (even though newcomers replacing those leaving will do this without growth).

    Even if Birmingham does not keep pace with other cities in terms of growth, we might do well to make growing and improving the quality of life for all our citizens our primary goal. We could strive for a model city. Extending the quality of life many of our citizens now enjoy to virtually everyone in our community would be a worthy goal with or without growth.

  3. This article wreaks of the Birmingham mindset – if climate change takes out these few cities then maybe we can win and grow. First of all this only considers a few cities and some quite unlikely events taking place. Second, this forgets the other options these people would have to move to.. Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, OKC, Kansas City, Louisville, Huntsville etc etc.. All of these cities are relatively untouched by those climate change based disasters you mentioned. When people are forced to move from Miami or New Orleans, Birmingham won’t be on their top 10 list.. It might have moved up a notch or two but not enough to cause people to flood in.

    You forget about Birmingham’s tornado reputation too. Taking a guess here, but I think there has been way more tornado damage within a 100 mile radius of Bham than probably any city in the country. If people are fleeing natural disasters they will surely consider tornados right?

  4. You have to remember this too.. When people in other cities look to move somewhere new, they first start with Google. When they google who lives in Birmingham, they see it’s about 70% black. For right or for wrong, that will cause many other ethnicities to look elsewhere.

    Now, if you’re looking for Black growth then it’s not a problem, but that only causes the city to be less diverse.

    1. @John Sherman. I fear that you don’t even know how ridiculously racist your statement about Birmingham’s black population was. Atlanta is 51% black and 60% non-white, New York is also 60% non-white, Miami a whopping 87% not white people. Has this stopped anyone from moving to these places? Sir, your assertion that a majority of black people in a city will discourage people from moving there is a racist one. The strength and beautiful of Birmingham has always been and continues to be its black population. It was the black citizens of Birmingham who organized protests that changed America. It was the black children of Birmingham who left school and put their bodies on the line in the streets for racial justice. It is black governmental leadership who has lead this city through its renaissance over the last decade. It is the black folk in Birmingham who are organizing after school programs and litter collection initiatives, etc., to improve their communities. These are the folk, along with the non-black folk who are passionate about our city and who value progress AND equity and social justice, who will lead this city into a different kind of future.
      In sum, our city’s demographic is not a liability. Thank you.

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