Birmingham: A confident city punching its weight on a global stage
Since becoming Leader of Birmingham City Council I’ve made every effort to get out and about across the city to meet many of the people who make such a huge contribution to life in Birmingham.
But looking beyond the city boundaries, my role is to represent Birmingham on a national and indeed international stage.
So last week I joined the leaders of cities from across the world – including former world heavyweight champion and Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko – for the Chicago Forum on Global Cities. Birmingham joined places like Bangkok, Philadelphia, Guangzhou, Warsaw, New Orleans and Kiev for this high profile event – all very different cities but what struck me most was the fact that we face similar challenges and opportunities.
At a time when governments across the world are reducing funding for local government, we must all find new ways of bringing capital into our cities. That’s just a fact of life and the leaders I met last week are all up for the challenge. Indeed how we meet that challenge has never been more important because it’s clear that cities hold the key to economic growth across the world.
Cities are centres of innovation and creativity. And from the Industrial Revolution onwards, cities have been the engine-room of successful economies. Fast-forward to 2016: The factories may be fewer and the chimneys may have gone but the driving force remains.
Take Birmingham and Chicago for example. The Windy City has been our sister city since 1993 when the relationship was established to maximise business opportunities between Birmingham/West Midlands and Chicago/Mid-West.
Like Birmingham, Chicago is an old industrial powerhouse that has had to re-invent itself in recent years and, just as we see in our own great city, that process of re-invention continues even now.
That’s why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and I discussed how advanced manufacturing and life sciences hold the key to future prosperity for our cities. I visited the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) – an innovative project bringing together leading companies, local government, researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new products and processes in digital manufacturing and design.
Similar to our own Innovation Birmingham Campus, DMDII is an innovative project bringing together leading companies, researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new products and processes in digital manufacturing and design.
Because of those similarities, Rahm Emanuel and I discussed the potential for ever-closer links between our two great cities.
And these international links can have very real benefits for the people of Birmingham. Since 1991 companies from the USA have invested in 152 Birmingham projects, creating over 8,000 jobs and safeguarding a further 18,500 jobs. That’s almost 30,000 households that have benefitted because we live in a city that consistently attracts international investment.
Our international relationships undoubtedly strengthen our standing as a global city but they also benefit individual Brummies, their families and communities.
Hopefully we’ll see future opportunities created thanks to mutually beneficial links with Chicago and other major cities across the world.