Birmingham featured in Barron’s as emerging tech hub. Local leaders respond

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Birmingham
Steve Case, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and J.D. Vance at the Rise of the Rest Tour. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

Add Birmingham to Tech’s Growing List of Tech Hubs ~ Barron’s

That is the headline and subsequent story that was published this weekend by Barron’s, one of the nation’s most influential financial publications.

Calling Birmingham’s recent influx of tech start-ups, “the economic renaissance of The Magic City,” the Barron’s story  (subscription is required) profiles the emergence of the growing tech ecosystem in the city as a potential national tech hub.

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Photo of Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jim Cavale by Bham Now

According to Barron’s, Innovation Depot and the economic “sleeping giant” UAB has helped create a climate for tech growth.  The article also features several successful and emerging local tech companies, including, Shipt, XpertDox, Helplightning and Planet Fundraiser.

Bham Now reached out to local tech and business leaders for a reaction to the Barron’s story.

UAB Dean of Collat School of Business Eric Jack

Birmingham, Alabama, Rotary Club of Birmingham 2018-19 president Dr. Eric Jack
Dr. Eric Jack, UAB Photo

“If we dare to look carefully beyond the headlines, we will see the civic and political leadership along with a growing tech ecosystem in Birmingham, Alabama that is clearly resurging from its past heyday as a steel manufacturing town,” said Eric Jack, Dean of the UAB  Collat School of Business in response to the Barron’s story.

An example of that civic and political leadership was the opening last month of UAB’s state of the art, Collat School Business building.

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Photo of Eric P. Jacks and Charles Collat by Vulcan Park and Museum

“From my perspective as President of the Rotary Club of Birmingham and Dean of the UAB Collat School of Business that just opened a new $37.5M building, with the support by generous donors, and in partnership with the Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we now have strategic alignment to innovate Birmingham.  We are diligently making the choices to create economic opportunities that address current and future employment gaps,” added Jacks.

Devon Laney, CEO of Innovation Depot

Devon Laney innovation depot
Innovation Depot CEO and President Devon Laney – via UAB.edu

Devon Laney, CEO of Innovation Depot sees cooperation and partnerships between private and public sectors as one of Birmingham’s greatest assets.

“Birmingham is benefitting from a combination of several factors that you don’t see in many other communities: very aligned public and private sectors around technology-based economic development, an intentional focus on developing a sustainable technology workforce, and unique, world-class resources that make growing a startup here very attractive.”

Delect
Via Innovation Depot’s Facebook

Birmingham needs to find the balance between maintaining the strong startup activity we’ve seen develop over the last 5 years and not losing all the things that have made that growth possible – like affordability and community alignment.  Many communities that have seen rapid growth in startup activity are losing (or have lost) some of the aspects that made it possible in the first place, which is why the entrepreneurs in those places are looking elsewhere – like Birmingham – for a more appealing option.”

Birmingham is on a roll

National recognition as an emerging tech hub by Barron’s follows last Spring’s visit by the AOL co-founder Steve Case Rise of the Rest tour. This summer, the city of Birmingham has also made some strategic investments in an effort to make the city a tech hub.

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Rise of the Rest tour bus. Photo via tech.co.

“In summary, across Birmingham, there is a growing sense that, despite our failings of the past, our future is bright and the sky is the limit for all stakeholders,” concluded UAB’s Jack.

 

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.