Community and business leaders unveil plans for regional growth

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's government and business leaders laid out a 5-year plan to grow Birmingham's metro area in proposal called "Blueprint Birmingham."

The new blueprint for Birmingham sets out 7 areas where this region can help create jobs or strenghten companies that are already here. All of it requires a lot of cooperation between all  cities and counties.

The blueprint includes 4 key goals of public and private leadership, workforce development, economic prosperity, and community and regional stewardship.

To achieve those, it lists 44 actions the region needs to take and to realize the plan's dream. The number one key will be cooperation.

"Companies and entrepreneurs don't know where the city limits are or county line," said Mac Holliday, CEO of Market Street Services, the consulting firm hired by the Birmingham Business Alliance to draft the strategy. "They want to know where the market is and how it works."

Holliday's company helped put together the plans that guided growth in Austin and Nashville. He says Birmingham could see the same kind of growth if the metro area works together. That's something he knows hasn't happened in the past, but he's hopeful.

"There is a real commitment this time across the board," Holliday said. "One of the reasons is the private leadership reached out to the public leadership, it's a team sport. That's the only way community and economic development happens."

Thursday night was proof of at least good intentions by the mayors of the area's 2 biggest cities as Birmingham's Mayor William Bell joined hands with Hoover's Mayor Tony Petelos.

"I want to join hands with Tony and pledge to you that we're going to work together to make this region the premier region not only in the Southeast, but all throughout this country.... and we can do it," Bell said.

HealthSouth's leader, Jay Grinney, is also one of the blueprint's steering committee's co-chairs. He said, "I think your presence here tonight continues to reinforce the fact that this region is open for change, and is willing to embrace a new way of working together,"

Will the taxpayers support it? Birmingham Business Journal's Ben Piper says, "maybe." Adding, "There's not a lot of buy-in from the taxpayer. There's not a sales tax increase like in the past." Piper said. "So in that way, there could be a lot of quick buy-in from the community and from business owners. I think the key is going to be how long does that buy-in last."

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