Birmingham companies report substantial growth in 2018

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Local companies in Birmingham’s core sectors are reporting nearly 20 percent growth in market share over the previous year, according to the Birmingham Business Alliance’s Business Retention and Expansion program.

The BBA staff visited 138 companies representing over 21,000 local employees last year. These companies announced 1,782 new jobs and $190 million in capital investment in 2018, a steady increase over 2017, where companies announced 640 new jobs and $96 million in capital investment.

Of those companies, 73 percent reported sales and market share growth, up from 54 percent in 2017. The 19 percent uptick in growth for local companies is unprecedented and encapsulates the solid year that was 2018 in the Birmingham business economy.

“Executives and business owners within our core traded sectors cited regulatory and tax reforms as two key areas that have helped spur growth in their companies, allowing them to invest in new equipment and hiring new employees,” said Mark Brown, Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion at the BBA. “These investments are critical to our manufacturing base allowing them to increase production capacity, improve operational efficiency and compete in the global market place.” 

According to the data, 23 percent of the companies visited reported performance as stable, while only four percent reported a decline of sales and market growth. Additionally, 31 percent of the companies reported plans for expansion, and 56 percent stated plans to add new jobs in 2018. The BBA staff visits companies in Birmingham’s core industries, ranging from manufacturing to finance and insurance to life sciences, automotive and more.

Spikes in companies reporting growth are exactly the type of numbers and results the Business Retention and Expansion program wants to see. The program focuses on regional companies ranging from startups to the region’s largest employers. Companies receive onsite, one-on-one visits from the BBA’s economic development staff to understand needs, challenges and opportunities and to gain insight on business climate and trends.

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Companies are provided with information, resources and relationships to grow business, and the program is one component of the overall economic development strategy of the BBA in its effort to create jobs, capital investment and better quality of life throughout the Birmingham seven-county region.

Information shared during each visit is always confidential, Brown said. The data is aggregated and is used to pinpoint larger trends and keep a pulse on the overall local economy.

Based off data obtained over the course of 2018, the program identified technology, transportation, advanced manufacturing, health care, and education and workforce development and training as some of the top local business drivers in the next five years.

“For companies to compete in the marketplace they rely on new technology, transportation, infrastructure, education and the ability to attract and retain a skilled and well-trained workforce to sustain and grow their companies,” Brown said.

The backbone of the Business Retention and Expansion program centers around relationships, Brown said, and each visit is individualized and specialized to fit not just a company’s industry cluster, but each company specifically.

“Building strong relationships is paramount in understanding a company’s needs and opportunities, which allows us to understand the resources to deploy in supporting the company,” Brown said. “The other component that sets our BRE program apart from others is how our team follows up and follows through to deliver results that are meaningful to our companies, The support our team provides covers a wide range of resources.”

Some resources the program provides are assistance on expansion projects when companies are adding new equipment, adding on to an existing facility or building a new facility; connecting companies to investors or capital access; small business coaching and mentoring; providing exporting assistance; and connecting them to BBA’s workforce development and talent recruitment initiatives and its workforce training and development partners like Alabama Workforce Training Center, AIDT, Central Six Workforce Development Council and R&D support from the UAB Materials Processing and Applications Development Center (MPAD), Alabama Power’s Technical Application Center and the Alabama EPSCoR.

“When you look at the overall growth of a community year over year, 80 percent of that growth comes from the core existing business base, and knowing your market sets the pace for future growth and economic prosperity,” Brown said

Since 2012, when the program began, the program has completed nearly 1,000 visits to companies. Since 2012, companies within the Birmingham region have announced over 15,000 jobs and over $3 billion in capital investment.

For more information about the Business Retention and Expansion program in 2018, click here.