“We don’t have a choice,” Brian Hamilton says of his hometown. “To sustain this community, we have to invest in diversity. If we’re successful, then Birmingham will be the answer to Silicon Valley, a technology ecosystem that generates the capital to transform the community.”
Hamilton is the CEO of Trillion Corporation. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer, the company provides a range of services in the telecommunications marketplace, including procurement, warehousing, just-in-time inventory management and project management.
A Birmingham native, Hamilton describes himself as “a proud graduate” of the city’s historic A.H. Parker High School. A civil engineer by training, he earned degrees from Morehouse College and Georgia Tech. Hamilton says he has been pleased to watch the ongoing evolution of Birmingham’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“’Evolution’ is the right word for it,” Hamilton says. “There has been a gradual shift and swell of the way entrepreneurship works here. It’s been growing for a long time, but not nearly at the pace we needed. The key to a successful ecosystem is businesses that generate capital with the intention of investing in community initiatives that transform lives. We’re moving toward that now, and Bronze Valley is the key.”
Hamilton is on the board of directors for Bronze Valley, which he views as “the energy center for the whole effort” to position Birmingham and Alabama among the nation’s leading growth centers for technology-based growth and development. He believes that Bronze Valley will provide “what has been lacking” in past efforts to capitalize on the undeniable advantages Birmingham can offer entrepreneurs and tech-based companies.
“The most challenging thing for us has been that the various components that make entrepreneurship successful have not been available at one stop,” says Hamilton. “Bronze Valley is changing that. It’s not just access to capital, it’s also providing access to know-how and mentorship, the kind of sounding boards that can make all the difference in the world to people who are trying to build successful businesses from the ground up.
“Bronze Valley is about building an innovative network of folks, including creatives who are vested in the community and intentional about growing diverse businesses.”
In terms of its potential impact, Hamilton equates Bronze Valley to the hard-won advances in civil rights that came in Birmingham. That’s no stretch, he says, given the prospects Bronze Valley offers for changing lives and circumstances, not to mention the image of the city in the eyes of both internal and external audiences.
“Birmingham was a catalyst for social change and social justice,” says Hamilton. “This city led the country, and in fact the world, in showing how a group of people can challenge and transform structures that are not fair. Now, our challenge for the future is to bring that same energy and that higher consciousness to the capitalistic arena, and to create a pipeline that moves from education to outcome and enhance our ability to grow innovative companies and provide opportunities.”
Acknowledging the skepticism that may be encountered regarding Birmingham and its prospects for becoming a leader in producing successful entrepreneurs and growing technology-based jobs and investment, Hamilton says it can be overcome by facts. And those facts, he adds, go beyond dollars and cents and get to the heart of why people choose to live in a particular community.
“Why would an entrepreneur want to move to Birmingham?” Hamilton asks rhetorically. “It’s simple: we’ve got the secret sauce. The social fabric makes this a place where young families can thrive. There’s a great climate, a growing range of educational and entertainment options, a central location in the Southeast. We’ve got everything a family — or a company — needs to sustain and grow over generations.”