If you’re a business owner in the Magic City, the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) has been working on your behalf throughout the pandemic. If you’re someone who enjoys the many small businesses that help make this the place we know and love, they’ve been working hard to help those businesses stay afloat. To learn more, we reached out to Fred McCallum, Interim President and CEO of the BBA.
Bham Now: Tell us about yourself and your relationship with the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA).
McCallum: I’m from North Alabama—born and raised in Florence. I went to Auburn for undergrad and Alabama for law school. After I got out, I practiced law for four or five years, then went to work with the company that became AT&T for 30 years. In mid-2017, I retired.
In March 2019, I came to BBA as the Interim President and CEO and stayed throughout the process of finding a new leader. When Kenny Coleman started back in July, I filtered out.
Then in mid-November, Kenny resigned for a great opportunity for him and his family in Houston. At that point in time, they asked if I‘d come back in to try to keep the ship stable. I was glad to do that, and so now I’m here.
Bham Now: Where are things going with the search for a new leader for the BBA?
McCallum: Even though we had a short tenure for our last leader, the same committee was willing to reengage quickly to search for a new CEO and President. That process is currently underway.
Bham Now: What are the BBA’s top priorities in 2021?
McCallum: Right now, we are finalizing our strategic plan for 2021-2024, which includes three overarching priorities:
- Accelerate quality job growth in our region.
- Foster a competitive and diverse economy.
- Continue to become the best economic development organization we can be.
Bham Now: How can small businesses get involved?
McCallum: The pandemic really created an opportunity for us to serve small businesses like we have never done before. Obviously small businesses were greatly impacted by the pandemic.
We quickly became subject matter experts on the federal stimulus programs and the state grant assistance programs. We worked to help small businesses understand them, apply, get funds and understand what came from having those funds. It was a lot of work, but very gratifying to be able to work with small businesses in these ways.
We hope to continue that work. One of the services we provide is support to entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups. We help them formulate business plans and do all the different things a new venture needs to do.
We’re also working on developing mentorship programs and programs to connect small and large businesses. A lot of small businesses solve problems that larger businesses have. And larger businesses can help small businesses grow and thrive.
Bham Now: What are the top attractions of Birmingham for young professionals?
McCallum: We’ve recently launched our OnBoard Birmingham program, working with employers who do recruiting into Birmingham. It’s a place for people who are looking for careers in Birmingham to go and find jobs, quality of life information about the city.
We did a fair amount of surveying to figure out what’s important to people in Birmingham and what’s attractive to people around the region who are likely to come here. Here’s what they said:
- Cost of living
- Availability of jobs
- More and more vibrant downtown city center
Having UAB in the city center is an unbelievable asset for Birmingham. People that live here for a while really understand what it’s like to live here, and if we can get people to move here, they really don’t want to leave.
We’ve been lucky enough during the pandemic to continue to get recognition in larger publications. We continue to rank highly as one of the cities with the lowest cost of living in the country. We ranked #10 on a national list of best places in the country for college grads. We’ve been listed multiple times as one of the best cities for job seekers.