All posts by BHM BIZ

The Shot of a Lifetime

Along with the biggest names in women’s golf, Shoal Creek hosting the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open this May 31-June 3 brings a sizable economic impact and incalculable positive publicity for the region. Beyond that, this event—whose champion walks away with the most coveted title in all of women’s golf—answers the question once and for all: Birmingham is a great golf town.

When more than 150 of the world’s best golfers descend on Shoal Creek, they’ll be following in a strong tradition of Birmingham hosting major golf events. The Regions Tradition, a major PGA Tour Champions event, has been held in Birmingham for nearly 30 years, five of them at Shoal Creek. The PGA Championship was held here in 1984. And the USGA itself has a strong history with the course, holding its 1986 U.S. Amateur and 2008 Junior Amateur events here long before awarding the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open to Shoal Creek. “The intangible impact for Birmingham is this puts Birmingham further on the map as a world-class venue and city to host major sporting events that have a global impact,” says Chris Nix, chief development officer for the sports marketing and event management group Knight Eady, which is partnering with the USGA to produce the Open. “It’s a big deal for the USGA to come to Birmingham, and it impacts both Shelby and Jefferson counties and surrounding cities.”

Nix points to the region’s golfing infrastructure and culture as part of what has enabled it to attract major golf events. “This community has not only some of the greatest golf courses both public and private in the country, but also some of the most committed people to golf anywhere,” he says. “The Alabama Golf Association is one of the strongest golf associations in the country. Our college programs are now putting out professional golfers literally every year. And so from the USGA’s perspective, Birmingham is a very golf-centric community.”

John Coppins, championship director from the USGA, has been living and working here for the past year and a half in advance of the event. That in itself is an indication of the preparation that goes into an event of this caliber—which began with renovations at the world-renowned course at Shoal Creek, including dramatic alterations to 10 of the 18 greens under the supervision of Jack Nicklaus, who was the original designer.

Other major undertakings are still to come. “If you think about all the logistics that go into hosting a major sporting event, where you normally have a stadium and parking lots right outside of it, and fixed concession venues…we don’t have any of that. So for us, we have construct all of these facilities—grandstands, the skyboxes, securing parking lots and shuttle companies. It’s a massive undertaking. But it’s extremely rewarding when it goes well.”

Coppins says the decision to hold this year’s Women’s Open at Shoal Creek was made back in 2014, after the club put its hat in the ring along with a number of other top clubs around the country. “Shoal Creek has proven that it can host major championship golf and events of this caliber through the events that have been contested here,” he says. “It starts with the golf course, but we also saw the success of the 1986 Amateur, the success of the Junior Amateur, and the success of golf events in Birmingham in general.”

Coppins says Birmingham’s unique sense of community spirit also adds to its appeal. “It makes a difference to have that support from Birmingham and Alabama as a whole to really put on a championship of this caliber,” he adds. “We’ve seen that support so far, and I think this is a community that turns out and supports the events that take place here, no matter how big or how small. There’s very much a sense of community as well as corporate support. It’s something uniquely Birmingham to say that it seems like almost any event that goes on here, if you tell people about it, they will show up.”

Coppins says the USGA will return the favor by bringing goodwill to the region with the kind of publicity that can’t be bought. “We broadcast almost 20 hours of live coverage on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports,” he says. “You look at numbers of eyes on TV sets across the entire world, and this is a tournament that attracts major interest globally. What an amazing opportunity for Birmingham, for Shoal Creek, for the USGA to show off the best women golfers in the world.

“But at the same time folks are looking at where they’re playing,” he continues. “We’ll have stories about Birmingham and talking about our host site and the host community. I don’t know if there’s been a sporting event in Birmingham that’s going to have as far-reaching impact and opportunity than the U.S. Women’s Open.”

On the ground, the financial impact is more tangible. “With previous championships, typically we’ve seen anywhere from $20 to $25 million in economic impact for the region. We expect folks to come down from Huntsville and up from Montgomery, and it is a pretty substantial number when you think about it. Obviously that means hotel rooms, meals, car rental and other things.

“But what I think a lot of people don’t realize is we also have 2,000 volunteers—a lot of whom come from all over the country if not all over the world—who come in, spend money, and take in Birmingham. We’re also looking to hire 200 temporary workers for our catering/concession business. So the impact is a lot more than just that week. This event has the opportunity to have a lasting impact both economically and for the reputation of Birmingham and Shoal Creek well after we conduct the championship this summer.”

In the meantime, Knight Eady is publicizing the event in creative ways to drum up support from golf enthusiasts as well as people who have not traditionally considered themselves avid golf fans. The USGA Trophy Tour was designed as an interactive, mobile preview, complete with an opportunity for fans to take a picture with the U.S. Women’s Open Trophy; stories and images of iconic moments in Women’s Open history; and prize giveaways including tickets and merchandise.

“We were thinking, how can we really raise awareness in the community that doesn’t involve just your traditional advertising elements?” Nix says. “So our co-founder, Michael Eady, came up with this concept. The trophy tour is taking this event to the fans and the community—whether it’s to Railroad Park, the Exceptional Foundation Chili Cookoff, Topgolf, or Barons games. It gives us the flexibility to really go where our audience is and even our nonaudience, by which I mean the people who are just now learning about the event and are looking for a sports experience. We’re telling them this is one of the top sports experiences in the world, and it’s coming 10 miles from Birmingham.”

Coppins adds that the energy Knight Eady is generating and the enthusiasm in the community at large is contagious. “The support we’ve received from not only the Shoal Creek members and leadership but the entire community—Birmingham, Jefferson and Shelby counties, and all the local officials who’ve said, ‘Let us know what you need to make this successful,’ that is uniquely Birmingham. That warm reception and support does not go unnoticed, and it is truly a blessing for us to have so many folks in the community who are willing to support us.”

Stadium Dreams

What is the most important thing Birmingham should realize about the new expansion and the stadium?

One very important element of the plans under consideration is that the projects are an investment in the modernization and renovation of Legacy Arena, investment in the convention center and meeting space as well as the proposed stadium. It’s not just a new stadium, it’s not just renovation of the Arena. The plan invests in positioning the BJCC to not only retain but grow the economic impact to the city generated by events at the BJCC by enhancing tourism opportunities bringing visitors to Birmingham.

The BJCC has been a key player in hosting entertainment, sports, conventions and meetings in Birmingham for over 40 years. We strive to create the opportunity for the BJCC to be a proud reflection of Birmingham for many years to come. These projects we feel will begin to re-establish the BJCC and its long and storied history of providing memorable events for our city and region.

Where does this plan place Birmingham in terms of its convention and meeting competitiveness with other cities?

The growth and revitalization of Birmingham has certainly been important in marketing Birmingham to decision makers considering Birmingham for their meeting or special event. So many factors relating to competitiveness of a destination come down to aspects beyond facilities—such as hotels, restaurants, retail, walkability, air access and local transportation. While Birmingham has always had so much to offer a visitor, development and energy in recent years has really opened the eyes of many when considering Birmingham.

That said, facilities are important, and the plans to enhance the whole of the BJCC will allow us to be more competitive and attract more visitors, special events and entertainment to Birmingham, expanding the economic impact of tourism to the city in the process.

Do you see these plans as the culmination of a long period of work? Do you feel like this is a signature achievement?

In our industry one can never settle for a sense of a culmination of work. While high profile projects create awareness and visibility of special moments in time, consistent and constant evolution is a signature of our industry.

Just look at some of our neighboring cities that are expanding, enhancing or in some cases tearing down and rebuilding venues and facilities that are not as old as ours.

An important aside to that, however, is that not everything that creates a great destination or product relates to the bricks and mortar. Exceptional service, exceptional experiences while visiting a venue and all the elements that relate to people are equally important, and continuing to focus on and evolve both the product and the team of people who deliver the experience to our guests are equally important to continually evolve and improve.

What is your confidence level that all of the intermediate steps can be met and construction begin?

We have a unique opportunity in front of us that is truly a story of partnership and collaboration among the City of Birmingham, Jefferson  County, the Legislative Delegation for Jefferson County, UAB, the Birmingham corporate community and the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority. The collaboration and investment by all the partners is a special story and we are optimistic the remaining steps can be navigated successfully. There have been very positive takeaways already throughout the discussions, dialog and interaction with all of the partners that I know the BJCC has found to very valuable. We greatly appreciate all of the partners as it’s only because of them the project has progressed to the stage it has.   

What’s Next for The Business of Sports

Birmingham has a long history as a sports town where big entertainment and big business combine. A BHM BIZ magazine B-School forum, held in January at UAB Arena, explored where the business of sports in Birmingham stands as we begin 2018.

It is a year that may see funding for a new downtown sports stadium and will see the first U.S. Open golf tournament held in the state.

It will also see the development of the city’s United Soccer League team, the Birmingham Legion FC, which was announced in August but is going through its formation in 2018.

The forum’s panel consisted of UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram, Birmingham Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson, 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Championship Manager John Coppins, Southwestern Athletic Conference Interim Director Edgar Gantt and Birmingham Legion Vice President Morgan T. Copes.

The panel took on hot topics, including potential financing for a proposed stadium next to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

While the new stadium is less than certain, there are some sports projects already announced.

One of the most significant is the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. It is the first U.S. Open to be held in Alabama. The United States Golf Association is bringing the tournament to Shoal Creek May 28-June 3.

This is also a big year for the Birmingham Legion, the USL expansion team announced in August. The team has announced its new name and logo (Legion) and its president and general manager, Jay Heaps.

Here are some excerpts from the breakfast event.

The Stadium

Mark Ingram

UAB Athletic Director

What is being talked about right now is a 45,000 seat open air stadium with luxury suites and club seating, the things you would expect and that you are accustomed to as fans. We would be a tenant there, play our home games there. Mayor Woodfin has been very supportive of it. He could not be more supportive about everyone coming together.

Where does the money come from? There are several different places. Some of it is the corporate community and public support, some of it is the BJCC itself. The city and the county. I think everything is progressing well.

What we realized through the effort to reinstate those sports is that it doesn’t matter if you are an Alabama or Auburn fan. Our message changed to, it’s fine if you love Alabama or Auburn, but you live here. It is so convenient and so much fun for the family.

Professional Soccer

Morgan T. Copes

VP, Birmingham Legion

Soccer Club

Birmingham, the Magic City, is a wonderful place to be. I mean we are in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post. …The New York Times is writing articles about us as one of the top destinations in the country. So when people look to move here or corporations look to move to the city, they look at, what are our employees going to do? What am I going to take my family to? The first thing I did was look at how many sports teams Birmingham had. The positives of a stadium would outweigh the negatives by having the opportunity to have more for citizens in this community to do and be proud of.

The Role of Regions Field

Jonathan Nelson

General Manager

Birmingham Barons

The way we designed Regions Field was just not for Barons games. It is a year-round facility. So we are not just for the sports consumer but for the corporate consumer as well. Even though we’re having this conversation in winter, we have four groups at Regions Field all day today. So it is a year-round facility.

It is so important to have a strong relationship between the team and the city. Fortunately Birmingham is very proud and wants to continue to invest in Regions Field and the surrounding area.

It is hard to believe we are knocking on the door of year six for Regions Field. A strong working relationship with the business community has been a major factor in our success—not just with corporate hospitality but with the overall feeling of seeing Barons baseball as something bigger than the game itself. It is good for the community as a whole.

SWAC Events

Edgar Gannt

Interim Commissioner,

SWAC

Many of you are familiar with the Magic City Classic. It brings in a lot of people at the end of October. Before I really knew anything about SWAC, I knew about and had experienced the Magic City Classic. So adding events to it here in the city of Birmingham in the next few years is key for us. We will be having our indoor track and field championships at the Crossplex. It is just a great opportunity to come out to a family friendly event and see some great athletes perform.

U.S. Women’s Open

John Coppins

Championship Manager,

2018 U.S. Women’s Open

Championship

This is the premier women’s golf event in the world. It is the largest purse in women’s golf. This is the title that all of the players want to win. When you talk about an international field, an international audience, we are really excited about the largest event in women’s golf coming to Birmingham. We are bringing the world’s best golfers to the world’s best sports fans. For our championship we are in a new location every single year. So it is exciting for the Open to come to Birmingham and Alabama for the first time. You are talking about a championship that has been played 72 times, and this is the first time in Alabama.

For us the competition is, what are folks doing over the weekend? Are they going to watch golf, are they going to the beach, are they going to the lake, are they going to watch a Barons game? It is obvious that for us that this is a once-in-a generation or even once-in-a lifetime event, a championship that is broadcast to over 100 countries worldwide. It truly reaches a global audience. Fans have to turn out and support these types of events if they want more to occur here. I know everyone in Birmingham is very excited to showcase this great city and great golf course at Shoal Creek to the world.

Bringing Back the Teams

Mark Ingram

UAB Athletic Director

We feel very strongly that Birmingham has done a great service to us by helping us reinstate these teams. It has been good for Birmingham, too. We have hosted Conference USA basketball championships for both men and women. That is good for the city. We built a new softball stadium, and we specifically made sure it was big enough so that we could host the Conference USA softball tournament. That means 12 teams and all their friends, families, and supporters coming to our town and staying in our hotels.

We feel like that is an obligation we have and we are committed to that.

New Voices on Regional Cooperation

The people of Jefferson County have heard regional cooperation proposed many times over the last few decades in Birmingham. However it has been proposed, or what it would actually mean, the reality is that most of these efforts have failed. So why would two prominent Birmingham organizations join forces now to push forward a new message that cooperation among Jefferson County’s 35 separate municipalities is vital to the region’s growth and success?

Chris Nanni, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham—which commissioned the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama to produce a 200-page report, “Together We Prosper”—says he and many others involved believe the time is right.

Nanni points to two changes in the region that suggest the region is better poised today for the issue to gain momentum. One is the entrance of several new mayors in influential metro municipalities who have progressive leanings and an openness to consider the idea that attacking goals as a unified unit would help the entire region grow.

The other is the fact that the region’s elected leaders recognize millennials as an important and growing voting bloc, and the report found that overwhelmingly, people ages 18-34 years old expect cooperation from their governments across borders for the greater good of the region as a whole.

“We have new mayors and a younger generation that may be willing to revisit and act on this,” Nanni says.

Getting the Word Out

The Together We Prosper report was released in June, and representatives from the Community Foundation and PARCA have spread across Jefferson County sharing its results. Since June, they have spoken to at least 40 organizations and reached 1,500 people directly, with a heavy focus on business groups.

Together We Prosper has support from some major Birmingham business leaders who serve on its Strategic Advisory Committee. They include former HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney, former Birmingham-Southern College President Gen. Charles Krulak and retired Innovation Depot CEO Susan Matlock.

“We have an opportunity to address the fragmentation that we live with and, in my opinion, keeps us back from moving forward and creating prosperity for all,” Grinney said in a video on TogetherWeProsper.org. “Other communities have successfully addressed this problem. I hope we take the initiative this time to move the community forward and address the fragmentation in a positive way.”

Nanni considers outreach part of an exploratory phase to determine which entities are open to taking on a more regional role. They have met with many mayors in the Birmingham region—especially new mayors in Hoover and now Birmingham—to get a pulse on how they feel about regional cooperation and a plan to pool resources and provide the region with an umbrella structure to give a voice to regional concerns.

He says most mayors say they want the Birmingham region to be more like others that are more prosperous—yet when talk turns to regional cooperation, there is resistance and fear it will lead to a merging of governments, dissolution of long-established suburban city boundaries and dilution of services.

But Nanni emphasizes that Together We Prosper doesn’t recommend extreme measures that many fear when they hear talk of regional cooperation. “We’ve had questions like, ‘What’s your ulterior motive? Are you pushing for consolidation?’” says Nanni, whose answer is simple: there is no recommendation to dissolve cities, combine school districts, or change tax structures. He says the report indicates the region can improve cooperation significantly without going near any of those hot-button issues.

“In a focus group, we brought together a handful of mayors and asked them, ‘What issues are you seeing?’” Nanni continues. “They basically all said the same things. So we said, ‘Instead of dealing with this on your own, what if there were a mechanism for you to come to and address those issues collectively?’ There seemed to be a real desire to do that.”

He says creating such a mechanism could, for example, be as simple as strengthening and better aligning groups such as the Jefferson County Mayors Association, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, and leadership from Jefferson County itself. “A common issue or problem might surface from the Mayors Association; research on the issue could be done by Regional Planning Commission; and the government could help implement that. So we feel like we have a structure that could be tweaked or utilized to take on more regional issues.”

Jumping the Hurdles

Nanni says it will take three things to get over the hurdles: Clearing up past misconceptions about what regional cooperation entails and how this effort differs from previous failed attempts. Building trust among the municipalities. And getting each municipality to understand that they have shared fates.

The Together We Prosper report found that Birmingham and Jefferson County have had job growth of only 0.24 percent from 2000 to 2016. Nanni and others involved with the report believe that’s a direct result of Jefferson County’s failure to work together on initiatives that would attract new business to the area.

Meanwhile, when asked about common concerns, many municipal leaders expressed frustration that companies already located in the region decide to expand and shop neighboring cities for the best incentive deal, which pits city against city to win over a business or pay to keep existing businesses. The PARCA report suggests if mayors agreed to stop poaching businesses from one another, they could instead work together to lure new outside firms to the region that would benefit everyone economically.

To improve cooperation, the PARCA report also recommends the region find a champion in the business community to oversee constructive dialogue between cities and create a move-to-action, because “together we soar or sink,” says Daxko CEO Dave Gray, who is a Strategic Advisory Committee member.

“We all rise together and fall together,” Gray said in a recent presentation to the Homewood Chamber of Commerce. “We can’t get too comfortable in our bubbles.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin agrees that certain recent initiatives have shown the potential for better cooperation across governments as well as the private sector. “The current public-private partnership on the BJCC expansion is encouraging,” Woodfin says. “The opportunity for support from the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, the state, UAB and the corporate community benefits everyone. For Birmingham, it has the potential to generate the revenue needed to focus on neighborhood revitalization in the city, which in turn creates more opportunities for the entire region.”

But it still can be an uphill battle, Nanni acknowledges “With 35 municipalities—making us the most fragmented region in the South—we’ve suffered from a mentality of competition over cooperation. But economies are no longer isolated within municipality boundaries. Economies are regional in nature, especially with the role that technology is playing. So when we look at where we’re going to be 10 to 20 years from now…maybe you live in Homewood, and you say, ‘I don’t interact with Birmingham or downtown. So why should I care?’ Because 10 years from now, if the region is not growing, your business is going to be affected. We’re not going to be relevant as a region, and it’s going to affect our ability to attract talent and grow.”

Start-Up City: Book It Legal

If you’re feeling peckish these days, you can use Shipt or Waitr to have snacks delivered to your door. Seeking a sitter? Ask Wyndy if it’s kids or Rover if it’s pups. Need a ride? Open your Lyft or Uber app and expect a driver in minutes.

The gig economy is changing the way Americans do business, offering flexibility and just-in-time resources when customers need them. But it’s not just consumers who are taking advantage of these convenient services—business-to-business companies are also getting in the game. Sites like Fiverr and 99designs, for example, broker projects in design, photography, video, and other creative fields.

Book-It Legal, founded in 2016, offers clerking gigs on behalf of law firms—mostly solo practitioners and firms with fewer than six attorneys on staff—to top law students at schools across the country.

Co-founder Jack West says that law firms usually only have access to student clerks in the summer, and that after they head back to school in the fall, the work piles up. Book-It Legal connects lawyers and students year-round with project work that can be done remotely. Attorneys post a project and a price, and students can claim a project they’d like to complete. Students are paid online, through tools like Venmo, and Book-It Legal earns a service fee from the attorney based on the price of the project.

Book-It Legal got started by winning two high profile local opportunities. They were members of the first class of startups at Innovation Depot’s Velocity Accelerator and they won a prize of $50,000 from Alabama Launchpad. They currently have their sights set on capturing the Georgia legal market, home to the nation’s sixth-largest bar association.

1. What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your value proposition?

Book-It Legal provides a software platform connecting attorneys with top law students across the country for per-project legal tasks such as research, brief-editing, and document review. Our service gives attorneys a resource for low-cost, on-demand assistance when they need an extra hand and provides students with a more convenient and flexible way to gain experience in a variety of practice areas and network with attorneys they may not otherwise meet.

2. Tell me about your founders and their experience. How many employees do you have?

After working with a local law firm practicing in the areas of corporate and securities law, I left traditional practice to start Book-It Legal. Making the transition from attorney to Founder/CEO of a tech company has been quite a journey—exciting and certainly a new challenge. Our CTO, Dan Tidwell, joined the company full-time last year after working as an engineer with Alabama Power and Alloy (a local web development and digital marketing firm). We’ve also employed marketing and QA interns from Birmingham-Southern College and UAB.

4. How did you get the idea to launch Book-It Legal?

Book-It Legal was born out of my experiences as a law student and as a practicing attorney. In law school, I was always looking for a way to gain experience in areas of the law that interested me (and to earn some extra money), but it was hard to juggle work around a hectic academic schedule. I also wanted to get my foot in the door of a legal market in another state where I didn’t have a lot of connections. When I was practicing with a firm, we had summer clerks work for six or so weeks over the summer, which was great because I could delegate some lower-level tasks to them. But once they went back to school, all of those tasks fell back to me. With Book-It Legal we give students a way to work with attorneys in markets across the country and give lawyers a quick way to get a student working on a project whenever the need arises.

5. Why now? Why Birmingham?

Technology is changing the way many people work, and the legal profession is no exception. Historically, lawyers have been slow to adopt new technologies, but that is changing, and we want to be part of it. Birmingham has a great ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs—from meetups to Innovation Depot to the Velocity Accelerator to competitions that can help startups get funded. It’s also a very affordable city (which can really help when you’re starting a company) and is a regional legal hub.

6. What are your competitive advantages?

We’re the first company to focus on lawyer-to-law-student connections and modernizing the legal clerkship. Other companies have created marketplaces for lawyers looking to outsource work to other lawyers, but we want to help improve opportunities for students.

7. Where do you want the company to be in five years?

Startups always get asked where they want to be in five years (my least favorite question). We’re focused on the next five months and driving attorney user growth and project volume. In the longer term we see opportunities to flesh out our platform with a recruiting component that will help students connect with recruiters and hiring partners at firms across the country.

8. Who would you most like to connect with right now?

Right now we want to raise the visibility of our company and get in front of as many lawyers as possible. We recently made the list of the top 25 legal tech startups for the American Bar Association’s Techshow in Chicago next year, and if we make it to the top 15, we will get to pitch at the event. That could significantly raise our visibility in the legal community.

Book-It Legal

Type of business:  Legal Clerking

Location: Innovation Depot

Founders: Jack West and Dan Tidwell

In business since: 2016

Number of employees: 2

www.bookitlegal.com

(205) 746-8396

Just Do It

Despite Nike’s rank as one of the best known and recognized global brands, its showroom space in Birmingham has a decidedly local feel in its design.

The interiors of the space features materials unique to central Alabama incorporating blue mill scale steel, Sylacauga marble, and even locally recycled gym flooring and bleachers throughout the showroom.

Williams Blackstock Architects used the materials in such a way that echoes the story of Nike itself. The design also plays off the very notion of the “Just Do It” legacy of Nike’s mission of outfitting and inspiring athletes. Within the space, the rustic and raw Alabama marble and blue mill scale steel transitions to more polished and finished materials. This, according to Williams Blackstock symbolizes the shaping of a finely tuned athlete through inspiration and innovation, hard work, practice, and technique.

A thick wall of blue mill scale patterned steel sheet wraps the lobby with clear butt jointed glass. The existing concrete ceiling is left exposed, while the existing concrete floors were polished to complement the rustic exposed ceiling.

The showrooms for retail products align along the exterior, creating a collaboration area for sales representatives and customers. Environmental graphics complement the interior and promote the corporate branding of the company.

Hitting Its Mark: Steyr

Any gun enthusiast anywhere in the United States in search of a firearm stamped with the prestigious name of Steyr Mannlicher, a well-known firearms company based in Austria, will ultimately go home with a product that’s been shipped out of Steyr Arms in Bessemer, Ala. Steyr Arms serves as the sole U.S. importer, distributor and retailer for Steyr hunting rifles, tactical rifles, sporting rifles and pistols.

The company also imports Merkel products as well as JAGDHUND and X JAGD brands of premier hunting wear and gear.

Scott O’Brien, Steyr Arms’ president, says Steyr is among world’s most prestigious manufacturers of firearms, which he adds are consistently the best out-of-of the box products on the market. He adds many of its competitors must perform custom modifications to approach the level of accuracy and precision Steyr offers.

Steyr Arms has a long history in Alabama, beginning originally in Argo, Ala. before moving to Trussville in 2009 and then to its current, expanded facility in Bessemer in 2014. Here, the company also manufactures the signature Steyr AUG/A3 M1 rifle on site, with plans to grow larger with a full production and manufacturing team.

The new facility also includes a 33,000 square-foot showroom open by appointment.

Here is a sampling of products imported, distributed or manufactured by Steyr Arms.

By The Numbers

The Barons drew 391,725 fans to Regions Field for the 2017 season, an average of 5935 per game.

Attendance was 4th highest among all Double A teams behind the Frisco RoughRiders (470,003)  Reading Fighting Phils (411,698) and Hartford Yard Goats (395,196)

Compared to other Alabama baseball teams, the Barons took top attendance honors in beating out the Montgomery Biscuits (228,376) and Mobile BayBears (92,898)

Capacity at Regions Field is 8,500 seats

Most home runs by a Barons player in 2017 were by Keon Barnum who hit 16

Construction of Regions Field took 14 months

The Barons original home is 108-year-old Rickwood Field, oldest baseball stadium in the nation

Coffee With

Vance Ballard grew up in a family where both grandparents were in the construction and real estate business with apartment complexes. “I learned how to get things done efficiently and all of the tricks of the trade. Anyone in any business who is good knows how to be efficient.”

From those roots, Ballard has built a construction company that focuses primarily on home renovation and remodeling. And he has located the business in a corridor along Oporto-Madrid Boulevard, staking out a claim for commercial renewal in an area of town in need of it.

“I have roots in East Lake. I went to St. Barnabas Catholic School when I was a kid. I can remember playing basketball in playgrounds along Oporto-Madrid. People are scared of Gate City, which is a pretty rough housing project, but it doesn’t scare me. I can make a bigger difference here than I could locating anywhere else. We have four acres of commercial property that is very affordable,” Ballard says.

Ballard is a 1995 graduate of Mountain Brook High School. In 1999, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in mechanical engineering. In addition, Ballard received his MBA from the Capstone in 2003 and went on to work for U.S. Steel as a maintenance manager, leading a team of highly skilled engineers to handle on-site repairs. Most recently, Ballard accomplished a lifelong goal by receiving a Juris Doctorate degree from Birmingham School of Law.

Prior to starting his own construction business, he was employed by McCrory Building, working on Soho Square and Broadway Park in Homewood and rebuilding schools damaged by tornadoes in Carbon Hill.

His current niche in the construction industry suits his goals and personality. “I enjoy working with customers. They are inviting you into their home, and that is an awesome responsibility. I worked by myself for a while just a Chuck and a truck, but I realized that did not offer enough legitimacy. In order to be taken seriously and be in line for bigger contracts I needed to have a home base. I created B&B and the office on Oporto-Madrid after wandering through Homewood and Avondale and Southside and basically being priced out of the market in those areas. I was fighting my way through law school and trying to build a construction company. I found this place on Oporto about four years ago. I turned up the two owners of the property and worked out a deal for both buildings,” Ballard says.

He took a slow but steady approach to creating his office complex, the former Dodd Roofing and Magic City Plumbing buildings. “When we had paying jobs we worked on those; when we had down time we worked on the office. It is amazing how slow and steady wins the race. I knew we wanted the office to have flavor and personality and speak to customers. There is an intentional wow effect when you walk in. And we used Alabama based materials throughout the construction,” he says.

Now Ballard is looking into purchasing the armory in front of Lawson Field, which would add an additional 45,000 square feet to the enterprise. “We will grow into it,” he says. Next door to B&B, space has been leased to Silverliner, which renovates and repairs Airstream trailers. He has opened up his office to include offshoots, B&B Cabinets and B&B Electric. “It is collaborative. Almost like Innovation Depot, I am planting seeds,” Ballard says.

Ballard has been pleased to see other commercial development along the Oporto corridor since he has moved in. “We have had a cabinet shop open across the street, and the mini-storage has totally redone their building. There is a new screen-printing shop. A new flooring company has located three doors down. I am not going to take credit for their success, but sometimes it just takes one to make a first move,” Ballard says.

10 Things

CONTINUING A  LEGACY

After more than 70 years, EBSCO continues to operate with the same ambitious spirit and drive that originated with its founder, Elton B. Stephens.

A DIVERSE PORTFOLIO

EBSCO owns businesses in a wide range of industries, from information services and publishing to manufacturing and real estate, including Alys Beach in the Florida Panhandle.

NEARLY 3K EMPLOYED

EBSCO employs more than 2,800 people across 28 countries.

GIVING BACK

Passionate about the communities in which it operates, EBSCO contributes to hundreds of nonprofit organizations that work to support local social services, education, arts, and the environment.

CREATING MOMENTUM

A culture of continuous improvement is fostered through innovation and offering team members educational resources like tuition reimbursement and continuing education.

TRANSPARENT

In 2017, Glassdoor recognized EBSCO as an Open Company, signifying that they strive to be honest and transparent with all employees.

CUSTOMER DRIVEN

EBSCO is known as a customer-driven company that seeks to understand the needs of customers and deliver products and services that meet those needs. For them, business is about creating value for customers, securing existing and new business, and maximizing profits over the long run.

PEOPLE CENTERED

EBSCO offers a robust benefits package and leadership development program to support their team.

INVESTING IN OUR PEOPLE

Profit makes things possible. It enables EBSCO to invest in its businesses, products, teams, and communities. As a private company, it does not release financial results to the public.

A MILESTONE  ANNIVERSARY

In 2019, EBSCO celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Old Brand. New Tricks.

My Rotary club, the Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club, meets every Tuesday for an early breakfast and speakers designed to wake you from your leftover Monday slumber. I’m wholly convinced it’s the best business breakfast in Birmingham. The speakers are always intriguing and, while they aren’t the only reason I go, they’re certainly a plus. (Them and the breakfast because, well…bacon.)

But one speaker recently piqued my interest when the topic came around to how organizations or businesses can evolve with the times without losing their core values.

On this particular morning, we listened to J.T. Dabbs, scout executive of the Greater Alabama Council, who spoke about how the Boy Scouts of America were creating a path for girls to participate in Boy Scouts. At one point in the Q&A that followed, he was asked what this change might mean for the Boy Scout brand. Would the brand have to change from Boy Scouts? Would the Girl Scouts continue to exist? The brand! My spidey senses tingled at the “B” word. I sat at the edge of my seat, coffee cup poised.

Dabbs gave a look somewhere between amusement and speculation and said that while he couldn’t answer for the future of the Girl Scouts, he didn’t think the Boy Scout brand would change substantially. After all, it is, as he rightly pointed out, one of the strongest brands in the world. He used the YMCA as an analogy. The Y, he observed, began as the Young Men’s Christian Association and is still a strong and virtually unchanged brand despite its own organizational evolution.

Unchanged. Hmmm.

From an operational standpoint, about the only part of the YMCA that hasn’t changed is the association part. Yes, the organization still espouses Judeo-Christian principles, but the young part and the men’s part have definitely changed. So the operational changes share similarities with the Boy Scouts—sea changes. But as far as the Y brand…was Dabbs correct in that it had not changed substantially?

I’d argue strongly that the YMCA brand has indeed changed. Big time. For starters, the last time the YMCA was not known by its acronym we were probably still lighting streets with gaslights. In fact, we’ve shortened it still  further since then. It feels like the Village People were the last to even use all four letters. Most of us know the brand as simply “The Y.”

Conversely, Boy Scouts of America has, to my knowledge, rarely been referred to as B.S.A. And I really don’t think we’ll be calling it the B anytime soon. Yet it will change. Of that we can be certain. My friend and fellow Rotarian Nathan Marcus suggested that in time it would simply be known as “The Scouts.” That’s probably right. But I think the only thing we can be absolutely certain of, despite its being an old brand with equity born of years of gravitas, is the Boy Scouts organization is in a period of change.

What do these grand old brands do when faced with radical 21st-century changes their founders never could have foreseen? How did the YMCA make its transition to an organization that welcomes all ages, genders, and creeds? We’ve seen the Boy Scouts contend with transgender issues. How will the brand contend with the addition of girls? To me, it all comes down to relevance. The YMCA recognized early on that, for its brand to remain relevant, it had to welcome the masses. Embracing a broadly tolerant culture fits its values hand in glove—values that, while they were most definitely born in Christian teachings, are universal.

The same’s true of the Boy Scouts. Consider their oath: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” What part of that excludes any of us?

You see, these brands are great because they were built on great foundational values. Yet even so, they must always work to keep themselves relevant as the times change around them.

Now here’s the interesting part. As I sat there at the best breakfast in Birmingham noodling over brands, something occurred to me. I Googled the question, “how long has Rotary been co-ed?” You know what the answer is? Since 1989. And as I looked around at the mix of folks we have in our club, young and old, male and female, different ages, creeds, races, and political views, I realized that Rotary was one of those grand brands as well—struggling to be operationally nimble, working to keep its brand relevant, and always, always exemplifying its values.

B-School Breakfast

UAB Associate Athletic Director Erin Kraebber welcomes the attendees to Bartow Arena Green and Gold Room

BHM BIZ and B-Metro Associate Publisher Cathy Fingerman

The full panel and Cathy Fingerman

BHM BIZ General Manager Mark Singletary moderates the panel discussion. Panelist are: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Nelson, John Coppins, Edgar Gantt and Morgan T. Copes