Shipt expansion, new initiative set to boost Birmingham's tech economy

 Photo credit Office of Governor Kay Ivey   From left to right, Patrick Murphy of Alabama Power Co., Governor Kay Ivey, Shipt CEO Bill Smith, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington.

Photo credit Office of Governor Kay Ivey
 
From left to right, Patrick Murphy of Alabama Power Co., Governor Kay Ivey, Shipt CEO Bill Smith, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington.

Shipt’s announcement this month that it plans to add 881 jobs and remain headquartered in Birmingham by investing $10 million in the city would have been enough good news for one day. But, alongside this announcement was another significant one: The City of Birmingham’s newest economic development incentive program, The Putting People First Fund.

This program will be used to train, recruit and develop tech talent in Birmingham and will consist of a Talent Investment Program, a Talent Acceleration Program and a Talent Optimization Program.

“The whole idea of the fund is very simple, it’s very direct,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “It is to invest in Shipt’s greatest asset but it is also to invest in our city’s greatest asset, and that is our people.”

The program was developed in large part with Shipt in mind but the framework is such that it can be applied to other companies, said the Birmingham Business Alliance’s project manager for economic development Alan Reeves, who, along with the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Power, the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, worked with the company to make Birmingham its permanent home.

“The announcement of the program went hand in hand with Shipt’s decision to stay in Birmingham,” Reeves said. “The impact of the program will be felt well beyond Shipt and utilized likely by other companies looking to grow in Birmingham or locate in Birmingham.”

Shipt’s decision to stay in Birmingham was not a sure thing, Reeves said. Other cities like San Francisco or Minneapolis – where Target, the company that acquired Shipt for $550 million late last year, is headquartered – were likely on the short list for relocating.

“It’s fair to say it was not a foregone conclusion that Shipt was going to stay in Birmingham,” Reeves said. “It was a competitive project and it was a huge team effort to work with them to bring the necessary and right resources to make long-term growth here a reality.”

Shipt’s announcement begins the cementing process of Birmingham as a reputable tech hub. Woodfin said that he hopes the city can become the hub for the entire tech space in the Southeast, and that The Putting People First Fund is a part of achieving that goal.

“We have to develop a more educated workforce that will make Birmingham a more desirable location for future tech companies looking to grow and/or looking to expand,” he said. “It represents another milestone in moving towards our vision of making Birmingham a destination.”