HealthSouth CEO: Jefferson County can learn from us

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - HealthSouth's CEO says he doesn't see any signs of a dramatic recovery from this recession anytime soon, but he does believe Jefferson County can learn some lessons about recovering from what his company has experienced.

Jay Grinney spoke Thursday at the 2nd annual Economic Development Summit. He said his company has been able to show remarkable progress from the accounting scandal that almost bankrupted the company because their troubles began in 2003 and 2004, meaning HealthSouth's turnaround had already begun before the current national recession.

Grinney said good timing is just one of the lessons his company has learned that may apply to Jefferson County as well. Grinney says he doesn't see any signs of a dramatic recovery just yet.

"I think we're in for a tough time, frankly," Grinney said. "I think we're in tough times. I don't see any immediate end to the difficulties we're facing."

But Grinney said he's encourged by a new strategic plan from the Birmingham Business Alliance that he hopes can point out areas for growth, and wants to help by sharing some of the lessons his company learned during its turnaround that may apply to Jefferson County's battle to solve the sewer debt crisis and a wave of bad publicity.

"There are several things I think are important," Grinney said. "Making sure that there are checks and balances in the system, that there's a formal strategic plan, that you have the right people in the right positions, that you map out the expectations and communicate those, and expect that there are going to be some failures along the way. But I think there are definite parallels."

Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt hosted Thursday's conference, saying this kind of collaboration can go a long way in overcoming negative perceptions among potential new businesses.

"When we highlight the city in this manner, I think it helps us dispel the perception we have," Hoyt said. "But I don't think we can paint with that broad of a brush because we have some good folk, good government."