Last year saw many notable Black-owned startups locate in Birmingham.
Digital health company Acclinate relocated its headquarters from Huntsville to Birmingham in December, following an investment from Bronze Valley. Soon after, a New York City-based health tech company, HealNow Inc., relocated to Birmingham as well, thanks to an investment from the Alabama Futures Fund, which earlier in the year also brought Black-owned SynsorMed to Birmingham.
So, as this success continues, what factors help persuade a Black-owned company to choose Birmingham? The Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) Vice President of Business Development Victor Brown, who works with many minority-owned firms in Birmingham, explains.
Greater access to capital and the appetite of the local investor community in Birmingham.
Birmingham leaders pay attention to businesses and do a good job of blending culture and community, said Brown, particularly in relation to international business and foreign diplomacy. “Paying attention to accepted norms is just as important to Black business owners as it is to business owners across the globe. [In Birmingham] we are more prone to listen to what companies are looking for. We don’t just present a boilerplate-type ‘here is what you get when you move to Birmingham’ when we recruit.”
Birmingham’s diversity is holistic.
“Our diversity is by age, gender and a variety of factors, not just around race,” Brown said.
The Birmingham community has a legacy and history of dealing with race and racial issues.
While many may see this as a negative, the legacy of Birmingham’s racial struggles and Civil Rights history is a competitive advantage for Birmingham to succeed in targeted recruitment of Black-owned businesses. “This legacy gives us more experience in understanding and keeping discussions around race out in the open,” he said. “There is a greater appreciation and willingness to express differences and deal with conflict than any other city in the United States, in my opinion. Surprisingly, sharing information about the reality of the way things really are, while embracing what we are doing to make changes for the better, resonates with the African-American community and with African-American business owners.”
Birmingham has piqued the nation’s attention.
“We are in communication with some of the most prominent companies in the country,” Brown said. “Business leaders across this nation know that there are benefits in choosing locations in the South for expansion. Black business leaders are included in that group of decision makers, and not just startups.” Black-owned businesses that generate $1 billion or more in revenue are beginning to take notice, Brown said, and are giving Birmingham a look because Birmingham is the perfect location for tradable businesses and its location is ideal in terms of transportation and logistics.
Birmingham has a welcoming community of diverse business and community leaders.
“I can pick up the phone at the last minute, and within a short time, get a prospect in front of an executive or a business owner who will do whatever they can to meet with a new company and to support the process of turning a prospect into a project and a project into a Birmingham expansion,” Brown said. “Regardless of who is the lead on a project, our ecosystem knows and is striving each day to work together in a more effective way to successfully recruit companies to Birmingham. This firm foundation is an incredible launching pad for the continued and successful targeted recruitment of Black-owned businesses.”