Let’s spend $125 million stealing from one another

Birmingham Steel Mills 1910-1919--Birmingham was known as the Pittsburgh of the South

Birmingham has always been known as a “steel” town.  Now we should be known as the “steal” town.

While our peer cities are recruiting companies from other regions, we steal businesses from each another.

According to a 2011 article in the Birmingham News, “At least $125 million has been spent by municipalities in the metro area to take businesses from one municipality in the Birmingham metro to move to another.

Remember when Irondale swooped into town to steal car dealerships from Birmingham?

Other examples include:

  • $55 million by the City of Birmingham to draw Trinity Medical Center away from Irondale
  • $11 million by Birmingham to lure Wal-Mart from Irondale
  • $2.5 million by Moody and St. Clair County to move Red Diamond from Birmingham and Jefferson County
  • $500,000 by Birmingham to entice Gus Mayer from Homewood

And in August of 2011, the City of Moody gave incentives to Indie Candy to move from Crestline Village in Mt. Brook to Moody.

Our Chamber of Commerce (now BBA) has taken several trips to other cities to learn best practices.  We learned that St. Louis (City) is not located in St. Louis County and for many years they stole companies from each other.  They finally got their act together and agreed not to pilfer from one another.

The municipalities around Denver actually signed a non-compete agreement called the Mile High Pact to stop municipalities from stealing businesses.

Jennings Marshall, an economics professor at Samford University, was quoted in the Birmingham News in December of 2011, “Whenever you allow different government agencies to compete against each other with tax breaks, in the long run, the overall taxpayer is damaged by it.”

Not only are we as tax payers damaged, but that money is not being used to recruit new businesses to our area.

Waste of tax payer dollars; no new businesses and jobs; sounds like a really bad deal.  But that describes our Birmingham region.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).


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8 Responses to Let’s spend $125 million stealing from one another

  1. Don Erwin says:

    David,

    I agree totally with your comments. One correction: I believe it was Irondale that attracted Birmingham’s auto dealerships, not Leeds.

    Don Erwin

  2. David Sher says:

    Don,
    You are absolutely correct.  I will edit.  Thanks! 

  3. Angela says:

    David your piercing observation is well noted. My question is, what movements are on the horizon to change thistype of behavior?

    • David Sher says:

      Angela, we need to begin a conversation on how to fix our local segmented/dysfunctional governments. Please subscribe to our newsletter and encourage others to subscribe. Then consider adding your comments. Thanks!

  4. Henry Neff says:

    David, I read all of the Comeback Town posts and usually agree with your observations, including this one. But I have a question. How does the conversation get started and who is going to start it?  I thought it might be the BBA but I don’t see much coming out of this group.  Perhaps someone should start a JSCGBA – Jefferson Shelby County Greater Business Association to bring together all the municipal government leaders. Just my 2 cents.

    • David Sher says:

      Henry, that is exactly the purpose  of comebacktowm.com.  

      In today’s world we don’t have to wait on structured entities.  We can create our own groundswell.   

      If the Arabs can topple dictators, we can certainly take steps to better ourgovernment. 

      Please encourage your friends to sign up for  our e-mails and join the conversation.  

  5. Lou Willie says:

    Sign me up.  I’m ready to work on some form of unified – or at the very least, cooperative – government for our area!

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