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Birmingham is the largest city in the state of Alabama. It is the county seat of Jefferson County, which had a population of 212,237 during the 2010 census. It is part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. It is named after Birmingham, a major industrial city in England. The city was established in 1871 by the nerger of three villages, one of which was Elyton. It subsequently kept growing through the later decades by annexing neighbouring towns and villages. Historically, the major contributors to the local economy were railroad construction, mining, the iron and steel industry, and transportation. The city had cheap and plentiful labour that helped its growth. Most of the original settlers in the region were English people. The city is also known by its two nicknames, The Magic City and The Pittsburgh of the South.
Now, the traditional industries do exist, but the significance of them has reduced with the introduction of other players in the economy, namely banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance. Birmingham is one of the significant business centers of the country, as well as one of the most prominent banking centers. Birmingham has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, law, engineering, and nursing, the colleges being the UAB School of Medicine, University of Alabama School of Dentistry, University of Alabama at Birmingham, which is one of three main campuses of the University of Alabama, the private Birmingham-Southern College, and Samford University. Law colleges in the city include Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, and Miles Law School.
While the Great Depression hit the city particularly hard, it started to revive during the 1970s, with a lot of the development happening in and around the University campus, including research opportunities. Investments have also been made in the downtown area, and restaurant, retail and cultural options have begun opening up. The population within city limits, however, continues to fall due to the exodus of residents into neighbouring suburbs.
The steel industry remains a significant presence in the city even though it hasn't retained its pre-eminent position. Some of the country's largest steelmakers like CMC Steel, U.S. Steel, McWane, and Nucor have a major presence in Birmingham. Local steel companies have recently announced about $100 million worth of investment in expansions and new plants in and around Birmingham. Research and development are other important activities here, with the university having opportunities for both. The UAB Hospital is a Level I trauma center providing health care and cutting edge medical research, also providing maximum employment for the city. Other health care services providers that have their headquarters in Birmingham include HealthSouth, Surgical Care Affiliates and Diagnostic Health Corporation. The city is also a major banking center, with banks such as Regions Financial Corporation(which merged with AmSouth Corporation), BBVA Compass, SouthTrust (which is now part of Wells Fargo Bank), and smaller banks such as New South Federal Savings Bank.
Protective Life, Infinity Property & Casualty, ProAssurance, and Liberty National are insurance companies that are headquartered in the city. Construction companies located here include BE&K, Brasfield & Gorrie and B.L. Harbert International. Two of the largest soft-drink bottlers in the country are located in Birmingham, namely the Buffalo Rock Company that bottles for the Pepsi Cola Company, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, United.
Education is handled by the Birmingham city school system, comprising seven high schools, 13 middle schools, 33 elementary schools, and nine kindergarten-eighth-grade primary schools. Other, independent school systems also exist. The Birmingham area is renowned as home to some of Alabama's best high schools, colleges, and universities. Options for cultural events also exist, including Alabama Theatre, the Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts, the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (which houses a theater, concert hall, exhibition halls, and a sports and concert arena), the Birmingham Public Library, and many more. The Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham maintains the site Birmingham365.org, "a one-stop source for finding out what's going on where around" the city.