Category Archives: News

West Midlands Growth Company formed to promote region on global stage

  • Marketing Birmingham transitions into new West Midlands Growth Company
  • New company to co-ordinate region’s business and tourism assets to secure investment from around the world

A new body – tasked with attracting investment, jobs, visitors and businesses to the West Midlands – has been established.

The creation of the West Midlands Growth Company was formally agreed yesterday at a Marketing Birmingham General Meeting (26th April 2017, Crowne Plaza Birmingham City Centre). This will now see Birmingham’s strategic marketing partnership transition to a new organisation, with a broader remit and new Board being established.

Formed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and aligned to the ambitions set out in the WMCA Strategic Economic Plan, the West Midlands Growth Company will raise the profile of the region in national and global markets, making it more distinctive and attractive to investors.

The West Midlands Growth Company will work in partnership with LEPs, local authorities, Growth Hubs, universities and the private sector. It will be charged with delivering a pipeline of major inward investment propositions, developing a more focused and seamless business support programme and marketing the West Midlands’ visitor economy assets for business and leisure tourists.

Paul Kehoe, chairman of the West Midlands Growth Company, said: “Marketing Birmingham’s journey began on 26th April 1982. It is therefore fitting that exactly 35 years to the day that the company was formed, we and the WMCA are taking this significant step to create a new entity, showcasing the economic opportunities available across the whole of the West Midlands. By working across a unified region, the Growth Company will be able to tell a much stronger story internationally and use this collaboration to its advantage in securing more investment and visits into the West Midlands.

“In recent years, Marketing Birmingham has worked closely with partners across the public and private sectors to secure a record-high number of foreign direct investment projects, the largest growth in international visitors of any UK city outside London and the relocation of HSBC UK from the capital to Birmingham. The decision to create the new West Midlands Growth Company will build on Marketing Birmingham’s expertise for the benefit of the whole region.”

Martin Reeves, Interim Chief Executive of the WMCA, said: “The Growth Company will help the Combined Authority put the West Midlands on the international map like never before. We’ll be working with the public and private sectors – with the likes of our universities at the coalface – to create new jobs; expand existing businesses and attract new investment to the region.

“Creating the West Midlands Growth Company is a huge step towards delivering our aspirations for the region and how we will make the most of devolution, demonstrating that a stronger West Midlands is not just good for local people and businesses, but the whole of the UK.”

Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham is a confident city, punching hard on the global stage. Thanks to the work of Marketing Birmingham, we have created important links across the world, with the likes of China, the Middle East, North America, India and throughout Europe.

“The city will benefit more as part of a region-wide investment offer, working with the cities of Coventry and Wolverhampton and all parts of the Black Country, Solihull and Warwickshire, than it can working alone.

“Together we have the most powerful investment offer in the UK.”

The Marketing Birmingham Partnership Programme, Business Birmingham, Visit Birmingham and Meet Birmingham will continue to be promoted.

ENDS

 

Marketing Birmingham’s transition into the West Midlands Growth Company will not affect its current contracts, which includes its Service Level Agreement with Birmingham City Council and the three-year European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) Investing in Greater Birmingham project. The Marketing Birmingham Partnership Programme, which includes some 300 partners across the region’s business and leisure sectors, will also continue.

The West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) will help to create new jobs, expand existing businesses and attract new businesses and investment to the region, aligned to the ambitions set out in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Strategic Economic Plan.

The WMGC has been established in partnership with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, Growth Hubs, universities and a wide range of businesses across the private sector. It focuses its core activities across Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire and the Black Country, with the potential and scope to deliver services in a wider Midlands context.

The WMGC is owned by the WMCA and its Constituent Members, with governance that heavily involves the private sector in the majority. Its core WMCA and local authority funding will be used to attract significant additional funding from the private sector and other sources, such as future Devolution Deals.

Brummie Bonds – £45 million breakthrough for new homes

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Labour’s pledge to build more homes has taken a major step forward following a multi-million pound deal between Birmingham City Council and a leading institutional investor.

Midlands-based pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and will lend the Labour-run council £45 million at favourable rates of interest.

The money will go towards building much-needed new homes, helping to deliver a key pledge by Birmingham City Council Labour leader John Clancy to tackle the housing crisis.

The interest rate the council will pay to borrow the money is, lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), which means the council will pay £1.4 million less in interest over the course of the loan than would have been the case had it borrowed from the PWLB.

Councillor Clancy said: “It is clear that the agreement we have reached with Phoenix Life represents a vote of confidence in Birmingham City Council by the private sector.

“With this council’s budget facing relentless austerity cuts, we must be more imaginative in identifying ways to generate funding to bring homes and jobs to Birmingham. I am determined that the Brummie Bonds programme will go from strength to strength.

“This council won’t raise the white flag of surrender. To make us less reliant on rapidly shrinking Government grants, we’ll go out and bring in millions of pounds of investment that would normally go to London markets.

“Typically, this is Birmingham doing what it does best. Buckling down, being pragmatic. Brummies are doing it for themselves.”

Phoenix Life’s Chief Executive, Andy Moss said, “I am delighted that as such a major employer in the Midlands, we have been able to provide this support to the local council whilst ensuring diversification in our investment portfolio.  We hope to continue investing in our local community in the future”.

The Government-approved Birmingham Development Plan makes it clear that some 89,000 new homes will be required for Birmingham citizens by 2031.

Radical plans to build new homes in Birmingham city centre are already taking shape. Cllr Clancy said he expected over the next few years to deliver 10,000 properties at Smithfield, Snow Hill and Curzon Street, an unprecedented rate of growth in city living.

Birmingham is building more new council houses than any other local authority. The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) has built over 2,000 new homes for sale or affordable rent since 2009, with plans for up to 500 homes for affordable rent also in place.

During 2015-16, BMHT built 562 new homes in Birmingham, equivalent to 30 per cent of all new homes in the city.

Phoenix Life is part of the Phoenix Group and is based at Wythall, south of Birmingham.   It is part of the Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest specialist consolidator of closed life and pension funds, with over 6.1 million policyholders and £76 billion of assets held by the Group’s life companies, including the newly acquired AXA Wealth, SunLife and Abbey Life businesses. The Group employs around 1,300 people split across the Group, with around 600 based at Wythall, its main operating centre.

Sunshine, tea and a smile – Birmingham’s message of tolerance

Birmingham looked its best in gloriously sunny warm weather over the weekend, but more importantly made a very public stand against intolerance which sent a message of defiance racing across the globe.

I’ve never been prouder of our city than I was on Saturday when brave Brummie Saffiyah Khan faced down the bigotry and hatred of the English Defence League armed with nothing more deadly than a radiant smile.

If a picture paints a thousand words, then the image of Saffiyah captures brilliantly the spirit of Birmingham over the years. Little wonder then that media across the world are reproducing such an evocative picture.

Saffiyah spoke for the whole city when she stood eyeball to eyeball with the leader of the EDL.

Extremism has no place in Birmingham which is proud to celebrate its rich diversity.

We are one Birmingham, one big community, and all other communities come after that.

Saffiyah isn’t a political activist, and that’s important. She was just an ordinary British Brummie going about her business on a Saturday who thought ‘no, I’m not going to be pushed off the street by loud-mouthed extremists’ and had the courage to do something about it.

While Saffiyah’s actions were spontaneous, the decision by the Birmingham Central Mosque to throw a Best of British tea party had the benefit of perfect planning and was a brilliant response to those that seek to divide us.

The chairman of the mosque put it with deadly British understatement: “Our mosque is open to all and we thought the best response to the demonstrations would be to invite our neighbours round for a cup of tea.”

Can there be a more symbolic sign of Britishness by getting together for a nice cup of tea? And in a nice twist in the city where the Balti was invented, tea was accompanied by home-made samosas.

As photographs taken at the mosque tea party demonstrate, this was an event that appealed to a huge cross-section of Brummies, regardless of ethnicity or faith – people who simply wanted to make a quiet but poignant stand against divisiveness and say, ‘Not in My Name’.

It was a multi-cultural event that the EDL could never understand. But that of course was the whole point.