Today’s guest columnist is Ed Fields.
Let’s be honest — Birmingham is not the first place most people think of when envisioning a thriving entrepreneurial metropolis.
But, they should.
The old marketing maxim “location, location, location” still matters.
Birmingham is a rare city with an inland port, international airport, commercial, industrial and passenger rail, and a six-spoke interstate system.
There is nothing we can’t move. There is nowhere we can’t go.
But, the evolution of Birmingham’s economic identity is not just about our decades-long transition from metal to medicine.
It’s about the entrepreneurs driving the transformation and how the rest of us support them.
We have had multiple entrepreneurs with recent business exits ranging from $100 million to $1.2 billion. And, those entrepreneurs are spawning dozens of entrepreneurial and civic endeavors.
Some of these new endeavors will fail. They must.
But many of these endeavors will survive. They will evolve and add value to Birmingham as they do. A few efforts birthed by this class of entrepreneurs will be overwhelmingly successful — ideally, more than just one at a time.
At some point, Birmingham will push beyond the episodic, every-other-year, major success stories we are accustomed to. We will experience more rolling major entrepreneurial wins that are felt inasmuch as they are seen. All the time.
People will be shocked and wonder how it happened.
But, we know how success happens — person by person, business by business, deal by deal; gradually, then suddenly.
There is much more to come
The successes of a few high-flying companies are evidence of Birmingham’s ability to nurture high-performance organizations, but they do not represent the fullness of the moment.
Something even more exciting is happening.
Our entrepreneurial bench has never been so deep.
That’s thanks to an entrepreneurial ecosystem that has found a way to add more value to more people, despite its own fits and starts.
Business leaders in Birmingham want to win.
It is the unofficial and underappreciated community connectors, civic-minded investors, and blue-collar caliber entrepreneurial grit that undergird us.
Amazingly, Birmingham has 11 business accelerators
Accelerators are intensive or immersive training programs that provide entrepreneurs with money, training, and a peer group of other entrepreneurs.
The goal is to help grow and optimize businesses by supercharging them with resources and helping reduce execution errors often found in new startups.
Accelerators are time-intensive — like boot camps — and require entrepreneurs to spend evenings, weekends, or entire weeks with their acceleration teams.
Many of these players have organized themselves around business acceleration programs that serve specific industry sectors, identity groups, and geo-specific communities.
Take a look at these business accelerators and know that there are dozens of lesser-known initiatives doing substantial work to increase business opportunities for everyone in Birmingham.
Accelerator Programs in the City of Birmingham
Source: City of Birmingham Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, Office of Business Diversity & Opportunity
- Prosper Health Tech (powered by gener8tor)
- Techstars Alabama Energy Tech Accelerator
- Bronze Valley Investment Accelerator (powered by gener8tor)
- Innovation Depot’s Voltage
- Urban Impact BECOME Accelerator
- Create Birmingham CO.STARTERS
- SHIPT LadderUp Small Business E-Commerce Accelerator
- Scale-Up Endeavor Birmingham
- Southern Research Venture Studios
- A.I. First Alabama
Let’s Evolve and grow
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Birmingham is ever-changing. Many of these initiatives have and will evolve with the needs and opportunities of people seeking to grow businesses in Birmingham.
Connect with Birmingham’s economic development champion, Cornell Wesley, about doing business in the City of Birmingham.
Ed Fields is a strategist and blogger based in Birmingham, Alabama where he serves as Senior Advisor & Chief Strategist for the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office. Find him online at honestlyed.medium.com.
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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