By David Sher
People ask, “Why do you write about Mountain Brook?”
The answer is simple. I’ve lived much of my life in Mountain Brook.
If I had grown up in Trussville, I would probably write about Trussville.
I graduated in the last 8th grade graduating class at Crestline Elementary and from the first graduating class at Mountain Brook Junior High.
Many of my friends live in Mountain Brook and my children graduated from Mountain Brook schools. I currently live in Vestavia Hills.
I also write about Mountain Brook because its leadership and generosity are critically important to our Birmingham region.
Many of our top corporate leaders live in Mountain Brook.
Many of our top community volunteers live in Mountain Brook.
And much of our region’s philanthropy comes from Mountain Brook families.
I began publishing ComebackTown in February, 2012 because of a conversation I had a few weeks earlier at a Birmingham civic club.
I was at a table with five white-hair balding males, all from Mountain Brook. One mentioned that his grown children had left for college and none returned home. Then one by one, every other person at our table, except one, repeated the same story. That last parent said he still had a child at Mountain Brook High School, but he looked forward to the day when his son could leave for opportunities elsewhere.
Quite frankly, I was stunned.
And nothing much has changed in the past twelve years since I had that conversation. I’m approached regularly by parents whose children have moved to cities like Charlotte, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, or Nashville.
And unfortunately, if you still have children at home, they will likely leave too–never to return.
Just last week I had a Mountain Brook parent tell me, “My wife and I look forward to our children graduating college so they can build their lives in a place that offers more opportunities.”
Family is everything—and I’m sure you feel the same way.
How can we feel good about losing our children and grandchildren to cities, many far away?
We should be offering opportunities here
Mountain Brook parents take great pride in their sons and daughters and the lives they are building in exciting cities across America, but we should also be offering opportunities here.
I was talking with a local business owner recently and he claimed young people are not leaving. He said his children moved back to Birmingham. However, his children work at his company. Most children don’t have a family businesses to come back to.
No need for Birmingham to become Atlanta, but we should expect some reasonable level of job creation to provide opportunities for our next generation.
Last year the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, and even the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area lost population. I don’t see how it’s possible to lose population when we’re located in the heart of the Sunbelt, the fastest growing region in the U.S.
Mountain Brook is an incredible place to live.
Gorgeous neighborhoods, incredible schools, and kind and generous neighbors—but our children leave anyway.
I wrote this column in the context of Mountain Brook, but it impacts families from Hoover to Trussville.
Today cities compete as regions.
We aren’t going to remain relevant competing as stand-alone cities.
The Birmingham Business Alliance, Jefferson County, and/or some other business or political entity must find a way to develop a regional strategic growth plan,
And we, as parents, should not feel okay to send our children out-of-state for a better life.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org.