July 19, 2019 10:00am

Birmingham's Biggest Challenge

Influential Bham leaders say lack of growth is most-pressing challenge

By Ty West
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Metro Birmingham’s lack of long-term growth is the most pressing challenge facing the region today.

That’s according to the latest Power Poll of influential Birmingham leaders in the business and civic world. 

A quarter of respondents in the poll said the lack of long-term growth – with 0.24 percent employment growth between 2000 and 2016 – is the top challenge facing the region. 

Two challenges with close ties to regional growth, education (23%) and regional cooperation (19%), followed closely behind – but respondents had vastly different feelings about recent progress made on those two fronts.

A quarter of respondents cited regional cooperation as the area in which Birmingham has seen the most improvement over the past decade – a result that could be attributed to recent strides in the area, such as the Together We Prosper initiative and the recent Good Neighbor Pledge that targets poaching from Jefferson County cities.

Respondents also thought strides had been made in regional leadership (23%) – a noted change from past polling by the BBJ that regularly cited leadership as one of the top challenges facing the area. Over the past five years, there has been a wave of changes in local city governments, including several new mayors in the metro area. 

The Power Poll also showed respondents believe improvement has been made on addressing our lack of long-term growth (18%) and workforce development (15%).

But respondents don’t believe Birmingham has made enough strides in the critical areas of education (36%) and crime (25%). Experts have said successful improvement in education and workforce development could be pivotal in crime reduction efforts – but they’ve also noted that adapting some criminal justice policies could pay long-term dividends in workforce development efforts. 

While Birmingham is obviously facing important challenges, 91 percent of respondents said the metro is moving in a better direction today than it was a decade ago, with 45 percent saying the region is moving in a significantly better direction. 

Only 3% of respondents said Birmingham is moving in a worse direction than it was a decade ago – and all of those respondents said it was only slightly worse. 

Here are the full results:

In your opinion, what is the most pressing challenge facing metro Birmingham today?

Crime 9%

Education 23%

Lack of long-term growth 25%

Regional cooperation 19%

Regional leadership 6%

Workforce development 12%

Other 5%

In your opinion, in which of these areas has Birmingham seen the most improvement over the past decade?

Crime  5%

Education 6%

Lack of long-term growth 18%

Regional cooperation  25%

Regional leadership  23%

Workforce development 15%

Other 7%

In your opinion, in which of these areas has Birmingham seen the least improvement over the past decade?

Crime 25%

Education 36%

Lack of long-term growth 16%

Regional cooperation 9%

Regional leadership 3%

Workforce development 6%

Other  4%

How would you characterize your feelings about the overall direction of Birmingham today compared to a decade ago?

I think Birmingham’s direction is significantly better. 45%

I think Birmingham’s direction is slightly better. 46%

I think Birmingham’s direction is about the same. 5%

I think Birmingham’s direction is slightly worse. 3%

I think Birmingham’s direction is significantly worse. 0%

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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