The run-off election for Birmingham mayor has been a brutal one. Alabama Today has covered stories on both candidates. Interestingly I’ve noticed a trend, when we or anyone covers or questions, Randall Woodfin, he and his supporters cry “fake news.” I’ve seen Woodfin supporters claim he’s the victim of media bias or “fake news” more often in the last month than Donald Trump has in his lifetime.
What’s not “fake news” is Woodfin’s comments on Birmingham’s bid to land the second Amazon HQ. A project that could bring up to 50,000 jobs and spur infrastructure growth and investments in transit, education and housing prices.
While mayors all around the region welcome Bell and the city of Birmingham’s efforts to attract Amazon, Woodfin is among the naysayers who believe the city shouldn’t even try for the project.
According to AL.Com Woodfin said:
“Greater Birmingham has experienced zero job growth since 2000 and 30 percent of our population is living in poverty,” he said in a statement. “Rather than propose a comprehensive economic development strategy, William Bell is delivering textbook election-year politics. Impulsively chasing projects as they come is not strategy.
“Birmingham has not made the adequate investments in public safety, workforce development, or public transportation over the course of Bell’s seven year tenure to give us a real chance at landing a company like Amazon. This is not leadership, just the typical grandstanding from Bell.”
First, Woodfin is wrong about the job growth. Something he should know and shouldn’t spread false information about.
According to an article by the Birmingham Business Journal, “The Birmingham economy continues to improve steadily, but still has room to improve.” They cite an analysis by Porter White & Co. investment banker Michael Stone.
According to the BBJ, “Stone looked at five key economic factors to gauge the health of the local economy: total employment, retail sales, occupational tax, electricity sales and airline boardings.”
The city saw a 1.1 percent increase in total employment as of June 30, 5.3 percent growth in retail sales, 3 percent growth in occupational tax, 1.4 percent growth in airline boarding and a decrease in electricity sales of 4.8 percent. Despite seeing growth four of the five categories, Stone said the Birmingham metro has still not quite recovered from the Great Recession as measured by number of persons employed pre- and post-recession.
He goes on to say,
Porter White‘s analysis shows Birmingham is being outpaced by several Southern metros, including Austin, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville and Huntsville.
“Growth in jobs is the most important economic indicator,” Stone said in his Birmingham Area Economic Report. “Job growth leads to increased family income, in-migration of population, larger tax revenues without increasing tax rates, and economic well being. Preferably new jobs are well paid, in stable industries, and generated by businesses with good and stable market position.”
Birmingham’s retail performance offers a brighter outlook.
“Retail sales are important in Alabama as a sign of economic activity and an important source of governmental revenue from sales taxes,” he said. “For the recent 12 month period, Alabama, as well as Jefferson County and Birmingham MSA, have outpaced the rate of growth of the U.S., using personal consumption of durable and non-durable goods (omitting personal services) as the analog for U.S. sales.”
On top of the misstatement on Birmingham’s economy there are plenty of people on Mayor Bell’s side to promote the city nationally in an effort to land a project that what would be an incredible opportunity statewide. Editorials have been published throughout the city including this one by Micheal Tomberlin, “Why not Birmingham for Amazon’s Second Headquarters?”, and Russell Hooks of Happens’ in the Ham says, “World class and innovative healthcare may be Birmingham’s key to Amazon’s new HQ.”
Even a reporter at the Washingtonian believes that Birmingham warrants serious consideration. So the question I have for the day is why does someone who wants to be our mayor not believe in our city and what’s worse? Even if he didn’t believe in the future of our city, as he professes so passionately every chance he gets, why would he go on record in a way that could ultimately hurt our chances? With friends like Woodfin speaking out on our Amazon bid who needs enemies?