Region 2020 reveals stats – Shelby County fares well among 11 others

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2005

There is now a resource where Shelby County residents can learn everything from how prosperous they are to how much ozone is in the air.

The 2005 edition of &uot;Community Counts: Measuring Progress in Our Region&uot; was released to the public last week at eight separate locations, including Pelham. The report focuses on 12 central Alabama counties.

Region 2020, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Regional Planning Commission, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the United Way of Central Alabama sponsored the report.

Counties included in the report are Shelby, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chilton, Cullman, Etowah, Jefferson, St. Clair, Talladega, Tuscaloosa and Walker.

‘The publication of ‘Community Counts’ marks the first time that our region has measured where we stand in such a comprehensive manner,&uot; Region 2020 executive director Guin Robinson said. &uot;We know that the data will spur the people who live in these communities to better focus resources and to work together with neighboring communities, and as a region, on common challenges.&uot;

Region 2020 spokesperson Tabitha Lacy said last week the report features 85 &uot;reliable, repeatable indicators&uot; that focus on the area’s people, prosperity and place.

&uot;What we measure, we can make better,&uot; Lacy said. &uot;That’s the mantra of this whole report.&uot;

The report is being made available to governmental, community and business leaders as well as the general public with officials hoping residents will view the report and then be motivated to volunteer in a particular area.

There are major discrepancies among counties, even though all 12 are within an hour’s drive of the Birmingham metro area. Shelby County fares well in most areas.

For instance, Shelby County’s reported violent crime rate was a little more than one in 1,000 in 2003. That is nearly half the rate of the next county – Cullman – and nearly one-fourth of the state average. In contrast, Chilton County reported 11 incidents per 1,000 – 10 times Shelby County’s rate.

Shelby’s household income is also well above the regional, state and national averages at $55,440. In contrast, Walker County’s median income is more than $25,000 less, at $29,076.

Shelby County’s poverty rate of 6.3 percent is less than one-third the rate of neighboring Bibb County (20.6 percent.)

Not all the news was glowing, however.

For example, Shelby County only has 1.2 hospital beds for every 1,000 residents. That ranks 10th among the 12 counties. Jefferson County, in contrast, has 7.12 beds for every 1,000 residents.

Also, the average commute time to work is 28.6 minutes – nearly four minutes higher than the state average.

Kate Nielsen, president of the Community Foundation, said the report would help identify strengths and weaknesses of the region.

&uot;These indicators provide benchmarks to chart our progress and to determine whether we are making a difference,&uot; she said.

Lacy said cities such as Jacksonville, Fla., and Boston have developed similar reports before.

&uot;This has been done on a city level, but I don’t know of any other community where it has been done on a regional level,&uot; she said.

Lacy said similar reports will be conducted in the future, probably every three to four years.

Residents can access the report at