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Birmingham, Brookings Institute announce partnership

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Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (right) and Josh Carpenter, director of the city's Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (IEO), announce a partnership with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. (Erica Wright Photo, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

The City of Birmingham and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program on Tuesday announced a multi-year partnership to find ways to create quality jobs with access to benefits, wealth building and career building opportunities.

The announcement was made at Sloss Furnaces and included Mayor Randall Woodfin; Amy Liu, Brookings vice president and director of its Metropolitan Policy Program, and Andre Perry, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brookings, a renowned national think tank.

“As the economy continues to evolve, we want to be prepared to empower the next generation of builders, so in order for us to do that, we need to reimagine the way we think about economic development in our community,” said Woodfin, at the announcement. “It is not just about creating jobs, it’s about creating quality jobs . . . it’s about making sure that our residents are prepared for those jobs as well as have access to those jobs.”

To reach that goal, Woodfin said, “all good teams need coaches, and the City of Birmingham is no different.”

That’s where the partnership with the Brookings Metro team comes in, he said.

“The Brookings team and Institute is considered among the nation’s best thought leaders in urban economic development,” said the mayor. “We are fortunate to have their team and the cutting edge research they provide as well as the data they have.”

The first step in this partnership is understanding where Birmingham’s economic strategies are performing well and where they are not. Brookings has access to national economic databases that will help Birmingham facilitate a strong economic future for its residents and businesses, say city officials.

Liu said Birmingham is on the cusp of big change and positioned to inspire other cities.

“We believe in this community,” she said. “We have seen the potential in Birmingham from the many visits we have already made here … people are making investments in this city because there is something special here.”

The mission for her team is to help residents and the city to be at the forefront of the modern economy “with good jobs that lifts up the income and opportunities of every resident, including embracing the racial diversity of this great community,” Liu said. “This is the vision of an inclusive, innovative, 21st century economy.”

Brookings will provide data and analytics of Birmingham’s strengths and deficits to shape understanding as well as bring more ideas from other cities to help spur economic growth and opportunity, she said.

The Brookings team will work with the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (IEO) and other local business leaders.

IEO Director Josh Carpenter said Woodfin and the IEO team have already taken tangible steps in developing an inclusive economy, connecting residents to quality job opportunities and investing in small businesses. “This innovative partnership between Brookings and Birmingham further enhances those efforts,’’ Carpenter said. “This is a testament to what is possible when the public and private sectors band together to focus on our community’s prosperity.”