Mountain Brook man reluctantly moves away, but has idea

Daniel Bolus

Today’s guest columnist is  Daniel Bolus.

I was born and raised in Birmingham and attended Mountain Brook High School.

I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering  from Tulane University in 2018,  and, I have been involved in Birmingham’s entrepreneurial scene ever since.

My fiancé and I recently moved to Seattle, but would love to return to Birmingham one day pending more robust career opportunities.

To foster these career opportunities, I believe that Birmingham has the potential to be a leading national hub for medical device manufacturing.

Most recently, I served as the director of national outreach for Hardware Park, an incubator space focused on physical product innovation in downtown Birmingham. From my experience both locally and nationally, I believe Birmingham is positioned to be America’s leader in medical device manufacturing.

Why we could be #1 in medical device manufacturing

Birmingham became the Magic City because we had all the ingredients to make steel at the right time and place. Similarly, Birmingham currently has the three key ingredients it takes to become a leader in medical device manufacturing: a growing logistics hub, a history of manufacturing, and a thriving medical ecosystem.

A growing logistics hub. Many national companies such as Amazon are investing in large logistics centers in and around Birmingham. Why? Because we have a lot of cheap land, and we are centrally located. Having a logistics hub nearby is a huge advantage for manufacturing.

A history of manufacturing. Birmingham’s heart is in manufacturing, from a history of steel manufacturing to our proximity to top automotive manufacturing facilities. These core skills naturally translate to medical device manufacturing, and many experts have drawn close connections between the skill sets and regulations required for the automotive industry with the medical device industry.

A thriving medical ecosystem. For someone visiting Birmingham, it doesn’t take long to realize that downtown is home to some of the nation’s leading hospitals and physicians. I have personally connected with some of these bright physicians who are directly affected by the problems in the medical device industry. These problems could be solved right here in Birmingham.

If we work together, we can create countless opportunities in Birmingham focusing on medical device innovation and manufacturing.

These jobs will be more resilient than tech jobs at retaining top talent in-state, as manufacturing is an industry that cannot go remote.

How do we do it?

To answer this question, let’s look at one of the largest successes for economic development: Silicon Valley. What is often forgotten about the story of Silicon Valley is ironically in its very name – Silicon Valley was the epicenter for computer chip manufacturing made from silicon wafers.

Preliminary successes in computer chip manufacturing led to the meteoric rise of the tech industry and large venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. It is important to note that all of this started happening in 1956 – showing to the world that massive economic impact can occur in just one generation.

To recap: it was the chip manufacturing movement and a few key leaders who were willing to reinvest into the community that created Silicon Valley.

It was not some well-crafted advertising campaign, but instead a significant geographical proximity to a key manufacturing industry. From this location-based industry, wise minds were drawn to live, collaborate, and give back to the area.

Right now is an amazing opportunity to invest in medical device manufacturing. Due to the pandemic exacerbating the effects of global supply chain issues, there are many initiatives to on-shore critical manufacturing industries in America.

In particular, the medical device industry is poised for a revolution as tech and robotics hit the quickly-growing healthcare sector with home health equipment, wearables, and robotic surgeries driving an immense growth curve for medical devices over the coming decade.

We are at a crucial moment in time for Birmingham to yet again  distinguish ourselves as a city through unique industry offerings. It may not be enough to reinvent Birmingham as another tech hub splintered off of Silicon Valley’s overpriced cost of living.

Looking ahead, we have a unique opportunity to recombine the ingredients that have already made Birmingham great and invest these into leading an industry poised for huge growth: medical device manufacturing.

Let’s unite together to make this a reality.

Daniel Bolus has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University. He’s the CEO of ClubHealth and resides in Seattle, Washington.

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).

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7 thoughts on “Mountain Brook man reluctantly moves away, but has idea”

  1. Wonderful thought, Daniel! Will the RIGHT people read this and TAKE ACTION? People with CLOUT…with that BURNING DESIRE to make something happen! Certainly our Public Officials …City, County and State…will need to “buy-in” alongwith our Bankers and Investors. This is a far-reaching challenge that will need the enthusiatic support from all of us. WHY NOT?
    Birmingham should not be afraid to succeed!

  2. Dear Mr. Bolus,
    Congratulations on your obvious creativity and good work in the medical field. I too think Birmingham deserves a lot of recognition for its great research.

    Please visit the post on comebacktown entitled “The Ingenuous Idea That Could Change the Perception of Birmingham Forever!”

    Vance Wesson

  3. Silicon Valley depended on pioneers like William Hewlett and David Packard starting H-P in 1939, and a number of others in the 1950s (too long to recount here). Some exceptional individuals — entrepreneurial and technical — but also a foundation provided by the Electrical Engineering departments at nearby Stanford and Berkeley and, more distant but perhaps as significant, people like Carver Mead at Caltech. Alabama and biotech? We’ll see.

  4. I don’t disagree with your reasons why they would consider Birmingham, but you fail to include there are other cities with similar offerings but far greater “live here” appeal. The manual labor part is only one component. You might could get manufacturing to move to Birmingham easily but good luck getting mid/upper level management to move their families from whatever great city/suburb they’re in.

    Think about it this way, if you make $100k-$400k and you can live anywhere in the US, why would you choose Birmingham if you’re not from here? Why not a nice suburb of Atlanta? Nashville? Dallas? Austin? Denver? Houston? Orlando? All of those places offer somewhat competitive costs of living (checked home prices in MB, VH, and Homewood recently?) with generally better schools, amenities and colleges.

    I agree that Birmingham has some skilled labor that might translate into the medical device industry, but that’s about it.

    1. Samford Grad:
      A very successful Birmingham businessman ( All American in college) had a slogan carved on the nameplate on his desk:
      “ If man had to stop before jumping every hurdle, he’d never win the race!”
      Life and business is a challenge every day…you can stop trying or push on to finish the race.

    2. I moved here from Atlanta, and you couldn’t pay me enough to go bag that traffic jam of a city. The quality of life here is much better – not to mention the lakes and mountains within a short drive.

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