Innovation has moved to the top of the Birmingham Business Alliance’s economic development priorities as officials seek to capitalize on an opportunity one expert says is “totally doable” in the Magic City.
The metro area’s leading economic development organization held its 2016 Chairman’s Luncheon today. Dr. Ray Watts, president of UAB, is the current BBA chairman and announced in December he will serve a second year in the position through 2017.
A big reason for Watts remaining in the seat is UAB’s role in Innovation Birmingham, Innovation Depot and the creation of a new Innovation District – three elements that are central to innovation becoming a primary focus for BBA’s business growth efforts.
“We envision this changing the future of Birmingham,” Watts said of the collective focus on the Innovation District.
Innovation has been an ongoing area of emphasis for BBA but the focus grew more intense after Bruce Katz, inaugural centennial scholar at Brookings Institution, visited Birmingham last year and suggested the opportunity the city had for creating an Innovation District.
The year since has seen a collective effort to do just that. Katz, who delivered the keynote at today’s luncheon, said the momentum now is palpable.
“I think you’ve got a great platform. You’ve got the University of Alabama Birmingham, you’ve got Southern Research, you’ve got an incredible downtown, an incubator with Innovation Depot – so you’ve got the geography that essentially is tailor-made for the 21st century,” he said in an interview with Alabama NewsCenter. “Proximity, density, vitality, authenticity and you’re beginning to see entrepreneurial startups, scale-ups either off of research from the universities or people just want to be here.”