Jefferson County Commission

JeffCo Approves $500K for Business That Helps Other Businesses Develop

Commissioner Joe Knight greets a member of the Foot Soldiers, who were honored during Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday gave $500,000 to Birmingham Business Resource Center.

Finance Committee Chairman Joe Knight and Commissioner Mike Bolin voted against the measure, just as they did during Tuesday’s commission committee meeting. BBRC had been on a list of entities to be considered for funds left over from the fiscal 2023 budget.

At Commissioner Sheila Tyson’s request, the BBRC funding was added to the commission’s agenda to be considered separately.

“I still voted no,” Knight said following Thursday’s session. “Had it been considered with the rest of them, I would have considered something for him. I’m not sure it’d been $500,000, but I would have considered.

“If you group them with the rest like it should have been then, yeah, I would have considered something,” he continued. “But my vote was a no because the way it was done.”

According to its website, Birmingham Business Resource Center was designed to be a “one-stop-shop” to assist entrepreneurs in every stage of development of their business. Founded in 1996 by Bob Dickerson, the company targets underutilized businesses as they start, grow and expand in Jefferson County.

BBRC was on Knight’s list to be considered among 10 entities seeking money from $1.9 million the county had left over from its fiscal 2023 budget. Knight’s contingency list was tabled so commissioners can review it before their next committee meeting.

“The remaining pot is 74% of the original 100% and there’s at least 10 more people or entities applying,” Knight said. “I can’t rationalize giving one man that much money based upon the documents he has provided to me.”

The finance committee chairman said Dickerson’s total request is $1.5 million.

“We’ll have to deal with him again next year and the next,” Knight said. “And there are no metrics that I’ve seen.”

As he did Tuesday, Commission President Jimmie Stephens voted with Sheila Tyson and Lashunda Scales in providing the funding.

“Why did I do what I did? Because I said that I would,” Stephens said. “I said if he met the particular parameters of that program that I would help fund it. They’re doing good work, and there’s no reason not to.”

Stephens said his research into BBRC showed that it was doing what it set out to do.

“The money is not a line item expenditure. It’s an investment in our workforce and in our county as it moves forward,” he said. “I look forward hopefully to having the ability to continue that. But there are parameters and there are deliverables. If all of those goals are met, and I certainly hope that they are, we will move forward.”