Imagine With Us


By 2021, Birmingham will be a hub of qualified and diverse talent and a premier destination for small businesses, startups and businesses looking to expand, propelling shared prosperity through innovation and inclusive growth.


Put the citizens of Birmingham first by providing economic opportunity through a relentless focus on talent: talent development, talent retention and talent attraction.


We have built our strategic approach on five pillars that we believe will yield inclusive growth. We define inclusive growth as “a focus on long-term economic sustainability by investing in increased productivity for employers and workers, expanding access to opportunities that develop demand-driven, future-oriented skills, leveraging distinctive and diverse community-based assets and inspiring creative collaboration among public and private partners, education institutions, foundations and nonprofits to improve quality of life for all of Birmingham’s citizens.” For a PDF of our Strategic Plan, see here.

1. Put People First:

“Putting people first” is more than the Mayor’s slogan; it is his strategy for economic development. The Woodfin Administration is relentlessly focused on talent development, retention, and attraction. In a knowledge-based economy where automation looms large, investing in human capital is the top priority for a community that wants to build a sustainable, dynamic economy. Closing the gap between the skills employers need and the skills our institutions produce will require strategic alignment through data and effective collaboration built on transparency, trust, and follow-through. A diverse and qualified workforce will be the engine for Birmingham’s economic growth, and it is critical to our identity as a community that builds and innovates with purpose. As the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, we are going to propel that engine with all the fuel we can provide.

2. Measure What We Value:

Birmingham’s comparatively poor economic performance over the last several decades is at least partially due to the targets we have set for ourselves. Historically, our community has defined successful economic development with two metrics: capital expenditure and number of jobs created. These goals–typical of a bygone era–allow us to confuse thriving downtown developments with flourishing communities. They allow ribbon-cutting ceremonies to mask high poverty rates and deteriorating labor force participation rates. We plan to usher in a new era of targeted goal-setting, aligning metrics that track progress transparently. Rooted in a comprehensive talent strategy and anchored in distinct industry clusters, goals for an inclusive economy reflect our deep commitment to inter-generational and social mobility, equity-driven human capital formation, and strategic investments for innovation and productivity.

3. Grow From Within:

Birmingham is and has always been a city of builders. From steel mills to start-ups, the city has built itself through depressions and downturns. Anchor industries have established themselves through natural resources, physical infrastructure, and clustering of distinctive assets and job concentration. These established industries–healthcare, financial services, and advanced manufacturing–are changing, as technological disruptions and globalization have made us more interdependent and economic growth more competitive. In order to grow Birmingham’s economy, we must invest in people and opportunities that fuel innovation via technological advancement in targeted and adjacent industries. To grow our economy from within, City Government must facilitate an ecosystem that allows innovation to thrive by providing resources to nurture and attract talent, establishing infrastructure that supports growth of women-, minority-, and disadvantaged businesses (W/M/DBE), and re-thinking stale governance models.

4. Boost Trade:

A recent report from Burning Glass Technologies and the Center for Adult Education and Learning (CAEL), called “Local Jobs, Global Horizons” crystallizes a problem for Birmingham: we have not grown jobs in tradable sectors. Trade, the influx of new dollars into our community through the export of goods and services into other markets, is fundamental to our regional prosperity. When trade slows, wages become stagnant for workers, and recessions are particularly difficult for firms to overcome because consumption falters.As a city, we must invest in opportunities to accelerate trade with other regional markets, as well as those throughout the nation and the world. In order to do this, Birmingham must devote resources to unique assets, promoting exchange by intentionally and strategically targeting places and firms to tell them “we are open for business,” while supporting local firms in their expansion to new markets by aligning resources. This requires a clearer focus on cluster-based growth.

5. Find Purpose in Place:

Cities that thrive in the next era of our economy will understand how to leverage their unique economic and cultural assets, intentionally intertwining economic opportunity with purpose and meaning. Since its founding, Birmingham’s economy and culture have been shaped by the contours of place, including physical and non-physical assets. Birmingham can nurture growth from within, while leveraging the aspects of place that make Birmingham distinctively compelling. The Magic City’s history has been characterized by the uniqueness of its soil: the richness of its mineral content; the world-class talent it nurtured; and the challenges that were reckoned on the world’s stage by the people who walked on it.

Birmingham can find economic strength in place on multiple levels by promoting cluster-based growth, effectively partnering with other regional metros, leveraging unique physical and infrastructure assets, and optimizing our innovation economy via alignment with anchor industries. Our city can also promote purpose and opportunity because of our history, not in spite of it. We believe Birmingham is the best place to change the world because it already has been. The modern generation of builders and social innovators can find inspiration in a place where children marched for equality in the streets, Fred Shuttlesworth fought injustice from the pulpit, and Dr. King outlined a vision for unity from a jail cell. This place once captured the imagination of a nation, turning the tide on civil rights. Birmingham is poised to lead a new era of social innovation, anchored in place, where people can move the needle on some of society’s most persistent and pervasive problems, because here, you can identify scalable solutions quickly, acting locally and thinking globally.


Have an idea? Want to propose a P3? See here.