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Mayor Woodfin’s ‘Uncomfortable’ State of the City Address to The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

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Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday delivered his State of the City address to The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and took direct aim at the city’s economic direction. (BARNETT WRIGHT, THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES)

By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Saying the City needs to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday delivered his State of the City address to The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and took direct aim at the city’s economic direction.

In his 35-minute speech in the downtown Harbert Center filled with business leaders, elected officials and heads of agencies, the mayor made clear he believed some economic developments efforts in the city were lacking because of what he called “fragmentation.”

“I have believed that economic development functions have not been effective for the city, the county, or the region. Among other things, there are too many organizations working in silos—some doing good work—but the fragmentation is both unproductive and expensive,” he said.

To drive home his point, the mayor repeated: “The fragmentation is both unproductive and expensive. I have made it clear that things need to change for everyone’s benefit, and I am committed to playing a leadership role in that.”

The mayor didn’t stop there. “Some of you have heard me say, or heard that I’ve said, ‘we need to blow up the structures we have,’” he said. “But we also have to be smart about it. And where there are opportunities to build on what we already have it makes sense to do that. So that’s what we are in the process of exploring.”

After the speech, the mayor declined to elaborate on what he meant by “blowing up” the structures in place but he has expressed frustration at the number of jobs being created especially with the myriad of economic development organizations in place.

Woodfin did say “serious and frank conversations” were underway over the last several months about what needs to happen “in order for our community to build a vibrant economy that serves all our region’s citizens well and also addresses concerns I have for our city.” “There has been a lot of progress and I now believe that there are opportunities to make significant progress and there can be a clear path forward if we work together, gather other leaders, and respect the interests and needs of all,” he said.

“Make no mistake – let me be very clear when I say this – Birmingham is the economic center of the state of Alabama,” he said. “Let us do what’s necessary, and be comfortable being uncomfortable as we continue to secure our role as the key player in this region.”

The rest of the mayor’s speech focused on many of his accomplishments he shared in December when he unveiled his “The Blueprint: The Woodfin Way” which can be found here.