By Alabama NewsCenter Staff
Veteran economic developer Ron Kitchens has been named president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA). With an economic development career spanning 30 years in Missouri, Texas and Michigan, Kitchens will lead collaborative efforts among partners and stakeholders in Birmingham to accelerate quality job growth and foster a competitive and diverse economy for the region.
“Ron is well known among site selectors and location consultants and is a true leader in the economic development industry,” said Jim Gorrie, chairman of the BBA and CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie LLC. “His knowledge, connections and track record of collaborating will serve Birmingham well and help the BBA achieve its strategic goals.”
Kitchens joins the BBA following the departure of CEO Kenny Coleman in November. Fred McCallum has served in an interim role since then.
Kitchens was previously senior partner and CEO of Southwest Michigan First, a privately funded economic development consulting corporation focused on job growth, leadership development and community change in the southwest Michigan region, where he had been since 2005.
During his tenure with Southwest Michigan First, the organization was recognized by Fast Company, Outside and INC magazines for its leadership and received the Global Innovators Award from the International Asset Managers Association.
Under Kitchens’ leadership, Southwest Michigan First grew revenue, investors and support for small businesses, as well as developed initiatives around key strengths of the region and organization. Those initiatives included the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund, which secured $85 million in private investments for a venture fund focused on life science; and Consultant Connect, an economic development consulting firm connecting more than 400 clients with more than 240 site consultants annually.
Prior to his work in Michigan, Kitchens was in economic development leadership roles at Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development in Texas and Moberly Economic Development Corp. in Missouri. A former city councilman in Ozark, Missouri, he is a podcaster and author of two books: “Uniquely You: Transform Your Organization by Becoming the Leader Only You Can Be” and “Community Capitalism: Lessons from Kalamazoo and Beyond.”
Kitchens is a certified economic developer and a member of the board of directors of the International Economic Development Council.
“I am truly honored to be selected to serve the Birmingham region at this incredibly challenging time in our nation’s economic history,” Kitchens said. “I truly believe that Birmingham has the resources – people, place and passion – to reinvent what economic prosperity means in America.”
Kitchens stood out as a strong candidate to lead the BBA as it finalizes its plan to accelerate job growth in Birmingham, said Mark Tarr, president and CEO of Encompass Health and the 2021 chairman of the BBA who led the search process.
“This is a pivotal moment for Birmingham and the BBA,” Tarr said. “The momentum we build on and the strategy we are finalizing is a perfect fit for Ron’s expertise. We know the Birmingham community will welcome him and his family with open arms.”