By Dylan Baggiano
Photo: Director of Department for Innovation and Economic Development John Carpenter speaks to Birmingham Economic Development Committee, taken from livestream
After hearing presentations from the department of innovation and economic development, the Birmingham Economic Development Committee, agreed to move a redevelopment project of older properties into new grocery stores forward to discussion in the city council meeting.
Birmingham communities have continued to suffer from the lack of brick and mortar grocery stores, according to Josh Carpenter, director of department of innovation and economic development.
Carpenter said the 146,000 residents living in food deserts will benefit from Dan’s Inc.’s redevelopment of properties like the former Save A Lot on 1125 Huffman Road in Roebuck, into healthful supermarkets, like Price Butcher.
“Dan’s Inc., with the city’s help, will be able to double the amount of fresh vegetables available in the whole area, and double the amount of meat formerly supplied at the location,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said the Price Butcher would provide an estimated $12 million a year in revenue and provide 50 new jobs to residents.
Councilman Clinton Woods said that new local business projects will attract outside markets to Birmingham.
“Residents want to see and are excited for grocery stores to actually come to fruition,” Woods said. “More businesses getting set up in Birmingham will bring more economic growth, especially, in the eastern high-traffic area.”
With the committee in agreement, Councilman John Hilliard motioned for the Dan’s Inc. project to be moved to discussion at the next city council meeting, Thursday.
Carpenter also presented on Prosper Birmingham, a partnership of the public sector and the private sector that, he said, works to ensure economic and racial equality for all residents. Carpenter said that in the greater Birmingham area, 3% of business owners are Black.
“That racial disparity isn’t just morally unacceptable, it’s not economically sustainable,” Carpenter said.
Birmingham, more than any major city in America, is seeing a larger increase in relative poverty, Carpenter said.
Along with UAB, Regions Bank, and others, Alabama Power supports Prosper Birmingham’s objective to provide jobs for Birmingham and support the local and regional economies, Carpenter said.
Ralph Williams, a resident whose family has been in Birmingham for 6 generations and representing Alabama Power at the committee meeting said that he is proud that his company has continued to pay employees a union wage.
“Alabama Power employees make more than a living wage, which is critical in creating a more livable Birmingham for everybody,” Williams said. “The company continues to raise the bar and expectations for corporate communities and business owners.”
Councilman Darrell O’Quinn said one way to encourage economic and racial equity is to foster entrepreneurial spirit, starting in high school.
“We have to let the kids know that there are many business opportunities with just $500 of capital,” O’Quinn said. “You can go out there and start your own venture—you don’t need $100,000 to do it.”
In other business, the economic development committee:
- heard a presentation on the 2020-2021 BOLD grant request for proposals process. The grant sum is $500,000 and the applications are due November 9. The four categories for submission are:
- job accessibility
- recovery and adaptation technical assistance for minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses
- scale-up technical assistance for minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses
- social innovation to address pressing community problem
The next economic development committee meeting will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, October 27, at 3:00 p.m. and can be attended in person with the observance of social distancing guidelines, or online, at the Birmingham City Council’s Facebook page.
Edited by Hannah Warren & Ryan Michaels