Guest column: Public-private partnerships bring Birmingham community together

Birmingham’s greatest success stories have been rooted in public-private partnerships.

Protective Stadium.

Birmingham’s greatest success stories have been rooted in public-private partnerships. Through these successes, we’ve seen that when there’s intentional collaboration among the public and private sectors, Birmingham moves forward, and our communities are transformed in a magical way.

One of the most recent successes of a unified group of partners coming together to positively impact the City of Birmingham is Protective Stadium.

Led by a coalition including the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority, the City of Birmingham, the Jefferson County Commission, the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, local corporate leaders and many others, Protective Stadium is a reality because of this vision-aligned collaboration.

Since opening its doors in October 2021, Protective Stadium has welcomed fans to UAB football games, AHSAA football championships, the Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham Legion FC soccer games, and soon The World Games, USFL games and other events that will bring our community together.

Rich Bielen, president and CEO of Protective Life Corp.

Protecting Our Community

Because of the anticipated impact of the stadium on the community, Protective wanted to better understand the perspectives of the local neighborhoods. Protective partnered with the City of Birmingham and others to launch the Protecting Good initiative to remain focused on being a good neighbor.

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They started by listening to the neighborhoods to learn more about what matters to them. It was clear the focus needed to be on advocacy, impact programming and local investment. The group also found a desire for the community to benefit from new opportunities brought by the stadium.

The first Protecting Good project was a partnership with locally owned minority business FLY V, exclusively providing merchandise in the stadium with proceeds split between his business and The Penny Foundation. This collaboration provided Fountain Heights business owner Andrew Jones a unique opportunity to promote his brand and direct funds back to the Northside communities.

Most recently, Protecting Good brought together teams from Protective, the City of Birmingham, the Alabama Department of Insurance’s Strengthen Alabama Homes grant and the Community Development Block Grant Program to renovate homes in Northside’s five neighborhoods. Many residents shared a desire to improve the conditions of their homes for the overall betterment of their community, and the group was pleased to provide assistance. Through this program, administered by Habitat for Humanity, the group will target renovating 100 homes in 2022.

Randall L. Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham

Birmingham’s Next Chapter

As the group focuses on Birmingham’s next chapter, public-private partnerships will continue to reshape Birmingham.

From partners uniting to support our small business community during the COVID-19 pandemic with the BhamStrong initiative, to key investments in Birmingham’s graduates and emerging workforce through the Birmingham Promise scholarship and apprenticeship program, we cannot lose sight of the importance of continued partnerships that help improve our communities.

Collaboration between entities like the City of Birmingham and Protective are key to Birmingham’s growth in 2022. Protective Stadium will build Birmingham’s reputation as a sports destination in our region, with tax revenue from the stadium going directly back into our communities as part of our neighborhood revitalization fund.

As the world prepares to descend on our doorstep this summer for the historic 2022 World Games, the success of that event, as well as the economic benefits for our city, will be driven by the public-private partnerships that brought us this far on our journey.


Birmingham’s Continued Success Begins by Listening 

These successes, and so many more, are due to embracing public-private partnerships and the elimination of working in silos.

It starts by having a conversation and listening. Birmingham is an incredible city. It’s our communities, our people, our unique experiences who together, make this “The Magic City.” We look forward to ongoing conversations in the Birmingham community and forging unique partnerships that will continue moving our region forward.

Rich Bielen is president and chief executive officer of Protective Life Corp. Randall L. Woodfin is mayor of the City of Birmingham.

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