By David Fleming
REV Birmingham President & CEO
Before 2020, our city had been enjoying levels of vibrancy that it hadn’t seen in decades. In the last decade, our City Center attracted $2.5 billion in development investment. New residents moving downtown, along with a solid employment base, inspired growth in our world-renowned restaurant scene and creating the sparks for a retail revival of authentic local entrepreneurs.
Now our nation has changed. First, COVID-19 has led to intense economic distress, job losses and business closures. And we have yet not seen the end of COVID’s impacts. Then, a series of tragic deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police sparked demonstrations across the country, highlighting long-held frustrations about unequal treatment and systemic racism.
The events of 2020 could cause us to lose hope for more positive momentum. In fact, as I write this, the COVID infection rates in Jefferson County are on the rise on the eve of fall school re-openings. Some may be tempted to believe that we lack what it takes to hold on and mount a strong recovery.
At every challenge, Birmingham has been able to count on the resiliency and determination of its people. Our potential is strong.
I, however, am an optimist. I believe we have what it takes. Over 150 years of Birmingham’s history we have seen many ups and downs, from financial panics and depressions to cholera and flu pandemics to marches demanding social change and a need to transition from one economic driver to another.
At every challenge, Birmingham has been able to count on the resiliency and determination of its people. Our potential is strong. Yet, potential is only realized through work and focus and optimism. So…
Birmingham needs you right now. This city can still reach its potential, but it’s going to take all of us doing our parts to get there. From the perspective of REV’s mission to create vibrant commercial districts, here are a few ways you can help:
Birmingham needs you, customers, to support local business right now.
To say that small businesses are vital to Birmingham is an understatement. Did you know that small businesses make up 50 percent of our workforce? Or, that the hospitality industry—our hotels, restaurants, bars, etc.—saw the largest job growth in the last decade?
Our businesses have given us so much of what makes Birmingham unique. Now it’s time that we give them as much support as we can to get through COVID-19 and beyond.
To help ring local registers, REV is running The Great Receipt Race, presented by Bham Now and sponsored by Verizon, throughout the month of August, starting this Saturday! Shop locally (and safely) whenever you can and text your receipt for chances to win prizes from Birmingham businesses.
Birmingham needs you, small business owners, to survive the COVID-19 crisis and thrive long thereafter.
REV has joined the City of Birmingham and 15 partner organizations to form Rebound Bham— a collaborative group pulling together workshops and resources for local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to survive and thrive. The content covers many topics related to financial empowerment, sales & marketing, and leadership & operations.
REV’s organizational vision is for Birmingham to be a vibrant city where everyone can realize their dreams. We and our Rebound Bham partners seek to lower barriers especially for women and minority business owners and to help answer some of the challenges facing the entire entrepreneurial community right now.
Birmingham needs you, yaysayers, to be hopeful and active optimists.
We’re not alone in our struggle: Downtowns all over the country are dealing with decreased foot traffic and economic fallout. Our team has studied the impacts on small businesses downtown Birmingham and compiled a whitepaper in which research and data lead to recommendations for recovery.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the state of the world and let anxiety overtake progress. But to do that is to stand in the way of vibrancy. Instead, let’s look for reasons to say #YayBham – and look for ways to be the reason.
Birmingham can and will get through this, but we all have to do our part to make it happen. That’s why #BhamNeedsYou.
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