For the inaugural issue of Weld, we asked dozens of people from throughout the community — young and not-so-young; male and female; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and agnostic; students, professionals, artists and more — to each give us one idea for making Birmingham better. This is one of those ideas. You can read more here.
Charles Ball • Executive Director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham
For years, we have talked ad nauseum about the importance of retaining and attracting bright young minds. However, as a community, we have done very little to demonstrate that this is truly a priority. We have about 30,000 college students in our metropolitan statistical area — more than 60,000 if you include Tuscaloosa. Some students are engaged and really connected to our community, but many are not. And when the unconnected students graduate, we lose many of them to other communities, other states. So, to address this brain drain, we should create what I like to call “Campus Birmingham.”
Campus Birmingham would be modeled after the innovative Campus Philly program in Philadelphia, Pa., and the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s “You Belong in Birmingham” initiative. It would add an important, and so far, missing, dimension to our regional economic development strategy. Partnering organizations would be charged with directing and implementing discreet projects that together form a collaborative approach to student recruitment, engagement and retention. For instance, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, in partnership with Collegia, Inc., promoted that region as “one big campus” in order to enroll more and better students from domestic and international sources; the City Commerce Department and Campus Philly worked to connect and engage enrolled students in the local community and Innovation Philadelphia worked to employ young talent by connecting students to local internships and job opportunities. Throughout this process, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia provided project management and policy planning leadership.
I would then take this idea a step further by linking it to a network of small business incubators that would be set up on college campuses. We say we want to become more like the youthful entrepreneurial hotbeds of Austin, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham. Campus Birmingham could help make this a reality.
Read more Big Ideas to Make Birmingham Better here.