Located at the southern fringe of the Appalachian foothills in central Alabama, Birmingham is Alabama's largest and most important city. Founded in 1871 at the junction of two major rail lines, the city's early development occurred so quickly that Birmingham became known as the "Magic City" because of the way it magically appeared out of nowhere.
Due to its unique geography, Birmingham developed as the South's only true industrial city. An abundance of iron ore in Red Mountain on the city's south side and vast coal supplies in surrounding areas resulted in the city becoming the only true southern steel town. Just like its namesake in England, the steel industry would be a major driving force in the city's economy until the 1970s, when the industry began to go into decline.
Birmingham has been on the rebound since the troubled days of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. From its notorious past, the city has reinvented itself as a place of opportunity for all. The city has become the second leading southern banking center after Charlotte with banks such as Regions having their corporate headquarters within the city. In addition to evolving into a major banking center, the city has also emerged as one of the nation's leaders in health care, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center playing a significant role within the city and its medical community.
Birmingham maintains active sister city relationships with Hitachi, Japan, Gweru, Zimbabwe, Székesfehérvár, Hungary, Guédiawaye, Senegal, Pomigliano d'Arco, Italy, Vinista, Ukraine, Anshan, China, Plzeň, Czech Republic and Al Karak, Jordan.