By Grant Hallmark
Alabama Political Reporter
The regional business organization, the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), is considering an entry into the state’s political process. The business-interest entity is still mulling over the decision to form a political action committee (PAC) as a part of its “Blueprint Birmingham” development strategy.
The alliance is a product of the merger of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Council. Their stakeholders and interests come from Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties. Needless to say, the group’s priorities are wide, yet generally pointed in one direction: growth. Specifically, they aim to grow the business community of the Birmingham metro area by making the city as business friendly as possible. This expansion of political involvement is just another facet of that growth strategy.
The BBA has already invested in state and federal legislative agendas, which make-up a moderate flavor of politics. In their state agenda, they have listed support for charter schools, extensive immigration law revision, the reauthorization of the Forever Wild fund, and a streamlined tax process. This mixed-bag of legislative support is a sign that their direct political support will most likely not fall into party lines, but will most likely reflect the organization’s policy priorities.
Myla Choy, the group’s policy directory, indicated party politics will have nothing to do she did say they would be supporting strong and organized leaders that consider a growth agenda to be of the utmost importance. She also said that, within the agendas, the Jefferson County financial crisis and extensive revision to the immigration law are the top priorities for the 2012 election season.
However, it is almost a certainty that hardline supporters of the new immigration law will not receive BBA’s support. Late last year, the organization announced that it was calling for a vast revision of the law. Although they did not come out in favor of a full-blown repeal, they did call on legislators to fix the many problems with the law. The chairman of the organization and Energen CEO James McManus told WBRC that “revisions to the current law are needed to ensure that momentum remains strong in our competitive economic development efforts.”
The immigration law from 2010 will remain a hot button issue in the 2012 elections, especially in the 6th district congressional race, and could possibly be the deciding factor in gaining BBA’s political support. The commerce interest group has formed subcommittees within the business community to develop revised policy. There is no doubt state and local industry has suffered greatly from and will continue to suffer from an exodus of laborers to other states. Attracting labor is central to BBA’s growth strategy.