It bears repeating… over… and over… and over!

Things are looking bright in the tech field lately. The more I talk with business owners and just regular employees the more good news I hear. Some information I’m hearing isn’t ready for publication, but I’ll post things here on the blog OR in our e-newsletter soon (whenever I can squeeze another one out).

In the meantime, I want to capture an editorial that appeared in the Birmingham News a few weeks ago (July 16, 2006). I don’t know if we’ll look back at the editorial as a watershed moment, but the following statements made by the business section editor was unprovoked AND was music to my ears:

Birmingham’s high-tech business sector is gaining some juice.

While Alabama’s largest city is not exactly known for cutting-edge companies, developments in the past couple of weeks have raised the profile of its next-generation businesses and provided encouragement for those involved in technology.

Last week, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, a large player in the nation’s health care industry, swooped into Birmingham with a buyout deal for MedMined, a company that developed a software system to help identify and prevent hospital-acquired infections. The deal is believed to be worth between $50 million and $100 million.

The good news is MedMined will remain based in Birmingham, its management intact, and can use the resources of a company that ranks No. 19 on the Fortune 500 list to expand.

The deal also boosts Birmingham’s reputation for developing such companies. MedMined sprang six years ago from research being done at UAB, and the company was nurtured at the university’s incubator, the Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries.

“MedMined is a great thing for the region,” said Curtis Palmer, head of TechBirmingham, a group dedicated to boosting the city’s tech sector. “They’re a UAB incubator graduate, award-winning in the incubation circles, and an incredibly well-run company.”

There’s more good news.

Working behind the scenes, a group of Birmingham businesses and investment firms has linked with the University of Alabama System and UAB’s Health Services Foundation to put together a $25 million fund that could help turn research at the state’s universities into the next MedMined.

The Technology Fund Management Co. LLC has already raised $19.1 million and is beating the bushes for the rest. While $10 million came from UA and the Health Services Foundation, $9.1 million came from the city’s business community, with Protective Life and Wachovia among the contributors.

“We think it’s a great idea for the community, and we made it clear early on we wanted to be involved,” said Johnny Johns, Protective’s chief executive.

The fund aims to help commercialize university research so that promising start-up companies can be born.

Meanwhile, Birmingham businessman John McDonald is putting up $2 million to help boost research at UAB, which has already produced companies such as MedMined and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals. McDonald established the UAB Concept Fund LLC to help researchers pay for activities such as legal work, securing a patent and so on.

“What this fund is about is commercializing technology, but also really importantly it’s about starting companies that can be here in Alabama,” said Sandy White, head of the UAB Research Foundation.

Taken together, these developments point to a brighter future for Birmingham’s emerging technology sector, which could create some of tomorrow’s best-paying jobs.

Tell the world! Over, and over, and over!!


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