Wade on Birmingham

The Future of Birmingham: Pride

By
Photo: Alabama Department of Transportation

Photo: Alabama Department of Transportation

An excavator loads Caterpillar 777 dump trucks along the
Northern Beltline. The project has a projected $2 billion impact
on the metro Birmingham area.

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Details at the end.

By Johnathan F. Austin

You can see the future of Birmingham by the growing number of buildings and lofts emerging from the downtown skyline, and you can see it by the community revitalization projects.

The Future of BirminghamBut what is the blueprint for this remarkable city? Expansion in all areas of development and revitalization of the city’s neighborhoods, all sparked by the establishment of relationships at home and across the globe.

These relationships spawn innumerous opportunities. Just look at the lineup: the U.S. women’s national soccer team match; the Southeast U.S./Japan and Japan-U.S. Conference this fall; the Neighborhoods USA Conference in 2018; and the World Games in 2021.

These events change people’s long-held perceptions by letting them experience it first-hand and spread the gospel. That publicity is getting the attention of many companies. With the coming $530 million expansion of Kamtek, the potential growth for the aerospace industry at the Kaiser Aircraft Industries hangar complex at the airport, and the continuous development downtown, it is clear that Birmingham’s growth is expanding across all areas of business.

According to a University of Alabama study, the Northern Beltline will generate $2 billion in economic impact, nearly 21,000 jobs and $54 million in new tax revenue per year. The In-Town Transit Partnership and Bus Rapid Transit system will move residents and visitors around our city center with ease, convenience and reliability. This alone gives us hope for a better Birmingham.

Economic growth will bring more people and an increased sense of community for those who will call Birmingham home. This is why we as elected leaders are shifting our focus to the heart of it all, our 99 neighborhoods.

With the passage of the recent budget that emphasizes neighborhood revitalization, residents will see a decrease in blight and an immediate increase in pride. People will not only want to work and play in Birmingham, but live here, too.

While the blueprint has been laid out for business development and neighborhood revitalization, at the heart of it all is the enhancement of our schools. The recent hiring of superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan puts our system well on its way to producing leaders for our community. After all, education is the most important economic development tool we have as a city.

As elected leaders, we make decisions that affect our communities both now and in the future. The council recently raised the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, the first city in the Southeast to do so. We are also paving the way for more innovative businesses like the Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps. This council is progressive in its ideas, strategy and vision for a thriving Birmingham.

So, from the increased economic development, to the revitalization of our communities, to the innovative laws benefiting our citizens and businesses, coupled with a top-notch school system, the future of Birmingham is one that should excite residents and appeal to newcomers.

We are well on our way to becoming a premier city, best in its class.

• • •

Johnathan F. AustinJohnathan F. Austin is president of the Birmingham City Council and general manager of AirOps.

• • •

The Future of BirminghamThe full version of this essay and many more are available in the free ebook, “The Future of Birmingham.”

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Read more essays in our special 10th anniversary series, The Future of Birmingham.

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  1. Wade on Birmingham » #sundayread for Sept. 13, 2015
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