Category: Economy

From Gardendale to Syria: BirminghamWatch Reprises Its Most Interesting Stories of 2017

BirminghamWatch stepped out of the mainstream in 2017 to give you stories that didn’t just recap the news, but also explained how the news was affecting our culture and the people in it.

BW has followed, and continues to follow, arguments for and against Gardendale’s attempts to break away from the county and form its own school system. It has brought you stories of immigrants who have made Alabama their home, of the state’s attempts to improve student performance regardless of high poverty rates in schools, and of the effect the state’s budget decisions are having on the environment.

2017 also was a year of elections, from the culmination of the presidential election with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, to the Birmingham city elections, to the U.S. Senate special election that attracted national attention. BirminghamWatch worked to give voters the information they needed before going to the polls, in addition to delivering that something extra that helped explain the issues, the politics and the ramifications of the elections.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading BirminghamWatch in 2017, and please continue reading to see what we have in store for 2018! Read more.

What Happens If CHIP Goes Away? Congress’ Failure to Fund Popular Health Program for Kids Could Leave Thousands in Alabama Uninsured

It’s a $53 billion* question for Alabama, and that’s just the U.S. government dollars at play in a year in the state. There are also the personalities, policies and practices setting the direction of federal influence on everything from Alabama retirees’ Social Security checks to Boeing Company’s more than $900 million* in contracts. Today’s report on the Children’s Health Insurance Program is the first of BirminghamWatch’s looks at the Alabama-Washington connection.

If your child needed medicine for asthma or ADHD or treatment for an infection or injury, what would you do if you didn’t have insurance or the funds to pay?

That’s the scenario thousands of Alabama families face if Congress fails to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. Despite bipartisan support, including professed support from the Trump White House, CHIP was not reauthorized in time for a Sept. 30 deadline. And now as the clock ticks, the funding for 160,000 children in Alabama hangs in the balance.

About 77,000 of those children have insurance paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, using CHIP funds. Medicaid could still choose to provide insurance for these children if Congress fails to act, but the state of Alabama would have to pick up the cost for covering them. Medicaid routinely faces yearly struggles for funding in the Alabama Legislature.

But 83,000 children whose insurance through Alabama’s ALL Kids program is subsidized by about $200 million from CHIP would find themselves without insurance that many of their parents can afford. If Congress doesn’t act soon, that’s what will happen early in 2018, said Cathy Caldwell, director of the ALL Kids program.

“If CHIP funding is not continued, it’s very likely that the ALL Kids program would go away,” Caldwell said. She estimated the program could be canceled in about February. Read more.

JeffCo Commission Closing Its Books on Time and on Budget

Sept. 26, 2017 – Jefferson County Commissioners will have a brief meeting Wednesday to deal with a “good” problem, according to Commission President Jimmie Stephens. Wednesday’s meetings, arranged during today’s committee session, will be conducted to close the financial books as the fiscal year comes to a close. “Really, that’s a good problem to have because

Jefferson County Paying Almost $1.5 Million in Incentives for Autocar Plant

Sept. 14, 2017 – With the cat having been let out of the bag, Jefferson County commissioners made the formal announcement Thursday about incentives for the creation of jobs related to Autocar’s moving into Jefferson County.

Gov. Kay Ivy took part in an announcement Wednesday that the Indiana-based trucking company will develop a plant in Center Point and Birmingham.
The county agreed to pay Autocar $1.492 million contingent on the company beginning manufacturing and meeting agreed-upon employment goals. Read more.

Where Does That Paycheck Go? A Lot of It Goes to Housing, Study Says

Almost half of renters in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, a state that a recent report from Harvard University classifies as cost-burdened.

More than a quarter, 27.7 percent, spent more than half of their income on housing, according to the State of the Nation’s Housing report from 2017. Those people are considered severely cost-burdened.

The numbers are fairly close to national averages, according to the report. Nationally, 48 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, compared to the Birmingham area’s 45.9 percent, and 26 percent spend more than half. Read more.

Birmingham’s Economy 2016: Three Views

2016 could be a very good year for business expansion and employment in the Birmingham area, except ….

That’s a bottom line from conversations with people who have fingers on the economic pulse of the area: Andreas Rauterkus, Associate Professor in University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business; Devon Laney, President and CEO of Innovation Depot, and Art Carden, Associate Professor of Economics, Brock School of Business at Samford University.

On their lists of 2016 stories-that-matter on the local economy:

You’re going to the doctor more. That’s a good thing.
Healthcare and financial services are dependable pillars of the Birmingham economy, and 2016 should be a good year for those enterprises, Dr. Rauterkus says. Local unemployment is down from recession levels, and that helps healthcare. “People go to the doctor more,” he explains. In financial services, most Birmingham-area businesses have little international exposure which means

Assignment Birmingham: Build on City’s Assets to Create Innovation Powerhouse

Start with distinctive assets like UAB, Southern Research Institute, Railroad Park, and historic downtown buildings. Decide collectively how to use those to help transform Birmingham into one of the country’s centers for innovation. Market that innovative city to the nation and world.

That was the assignment put on the table for people who can make things happen in Birmingham by Brookings Institution Vice President Bruce Katz, an influential Washington, D.C.–based policy expert who recently spent two days in Birmingham.

Katz: “Break Some China” to Build Birmingham as Economic Power

A national advocate who believes cities must lead economic development and change dysfunctional politics visited Birmingham Thursday, and this is what he quickly noted: A downtown still anchored by handsome old buildings, something gone in many places. The rail lines. “Crazy amounts” of affordable housing. The presence of a major health and science research university.

“No guarantee” for Future Tax Breaks to Help Rescue Historic Birmingham Buildings

An economic development tool credited with facilitating more than $170 million in development in Birmingham faces an uncertain future after being pushed aside by lawmakers preoccupied with the state’s budget battle.

An effort to renew Alabama’s historic preservation tax credit was derailed in the spring and has been expected to be renewed early next year. But a leading opponent said he may move to block renewal of the credits even if a state study concludes that they are effective.

State Sen. Lee Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, is waiting for completion of a state study of the law’s effectiveness before taking a formal position, he said, but his opposition to the use of tax credits in general may lead him to try to block renewal of the incentive regardless of the findings.