New report says Birmingham metro area has had almost zero job growth since 2000
Birmingham, Ala. —
Regional cooperation in the greater Birmingham area is a conversation that comes up time and time again. Now a new report quantifies the effects of not having regional cooperation. The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham along with the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama just released the report about fragmented government after studying it for a year.
President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Christoper Nanni, says this is the first time there's been research behind the regional cooperation conversation. He tells ABC 33/40 they went into the study really not knowing if regional cooperation would be good or bad for a community. But now he says the evidence is pretty overwhelming that regions that work together with one voice are more prosperous that those that don't.
There's been a lot of forward momentum in downtown Birmingham lately with new apartments, hotels, and restaurants. The new report shows despite all that the Greater Birmingham area is not thriving. "From 2000 to 2016 we've basically had 0 growth in jobs," says Nanni. To be exact the report indicates there has only been 0.24%. The report compares that to other metro areas with more unified governments and their job growth ranges from 20-50% in the same time frame.
Nanni says with 35 municipalities the Birmingham metro is the most fragmented community in the Southeast. "You have 35 municipalities that are competing with one another."
He says cooperation among those municipalities would help increase job growth in the area. But he's quick to point out he's talking about cooperation not consolidation. "Those 35 municipalities will stay in existence, their taxing structures, none of that changes. An example he gives of cooperation is all the area Mayors signing "no poaching" agreements so they don't steal businesses and jobs from other cities in the same region.
Nanni recognizes regional cooperation has been talked about and tried before here. But he says that's a reason why it could work this time. It's failed first in other areas before being successful. "When we look at the research it takes on average, cities that have solved their problem, it's taken an average of four attempts over a period of time."
Nanni says The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham is not advocating for any specific solution to get Regional Cooperation here. But their report does highlight four different models other cities have used. Nanni says Birmingham will have to figure out what model works best here or it could end up being a hybrid of a couple models.