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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.



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.

Give us the powers and we will lead the post-Brexit economy

Localis report

As consultation on the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper draws to a close, I want to underline the importance for Birmingham and the wider West Midlands of a joint approach towards one of the biggest issues facing this country.

I’m determined that we will lead the country in showing how cities can be at the forefront of a new, post-Brexit, industrial strategy.

The countdown to Brexit is about to begin. The Prime Minister has signalled she will trigger Article 50 next week and whether we like it or not, the UK will leave the European Union in two years.

This means the requirement for a sound industrial strategy, with buy-in from both central and local government, has never been greater. Post-Brexit it is vital that investment currently coming from the EU to Britain is maintained, that we address the skills shortages holding back the economy and the prospects of local people, and maintain investment in our transport infrastructure and new homes.

This won’t be easy but the task will be even more difficult, impossible perhaps, unless the Government is prepared to move at pace to allow important strategic decisions to be taken locally, at a level where councils and business leaders know what is best for their local communities and can react swiftly to trading opportunities as they arise.

Devolution of budgets and powers from Whitehall has to be far more than just a sound-bite – the advent of a West Midlands mayor alongside a united Combined Authority with metropolitan and district councils working together as never before presents this region with a unique opportunity, and we must be up for the challenge.

The three-LEP geography of the Combined Authority is the right level at which to deliver a regional industrial strategy. But we are also working closely with the Midlands Engine project on those aspects that require a bigger canvas, such as cross-regional transport investment and selling the Midlands globally.

A new report from the think tank Localis, makes the case for radical devolution which would enable Birmingham and the West Midlands to deliver an industrial strategy to create jobs and inclusive growth for the region post-Brexit.

The report recommends that the West Midlands be given:

  • A new Accelerated Growth Fund, to replace EU funding and pool all existing local funding
  • Powers to more effectively plan for current and future labour market needs, including co-ordinating local skills provision
  • Leadership on local land provision for housing and jobs and on the use of all public land, stronger compulsory purchase powers
  • A duty to develop local transport strategies and control over investment planning
    Control of local bus services
  • Power to control a Community Infrastructure Levy across the area and new Zonal Infrastructure Levies
  • Greater discretion over business rates and pilots of fiscal devolution steps such as a local corporation tax top slice, localised VAT and wider borrowing powers
  • Rights to propose public sector relocations from London, such as government departments or Quangos.

The report is particularly welcome as it is in line with the arguments we have been making to the Government on the need for more devolution so that we can deliver the investment needed to prosper after Brexit.

These changes would go a long way to enable Birmingham and the West Midlands to make a greater contribution to the nation’s prosperity and achieve the full potential we know exists in the region.

When the Industrial Strategy Green Paper was published, the Prime Minister promised the Government would step up to a “new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success”.

The Government said it would look favourably on the type of sectors that will shape the economy of tomorrow, with life sciences, low carbon vehicles, industrial digitalisation and creative industries expected to be at the front of the queue for investment.

This is potentially good news for Birmingham and the West Midlands where our hospitals and universities are already blazing a trail in medical research, and where JLR has expressed a wish to look at building a new battery and assembly plant for electric cars.

But as I’ve already made clear, there’s much more the Government should be doing if it wants to rebalance the economy and promote inclusive economic growth, with well-paid jobs for all citizens. Enhanced capital allowances should be considered to stimulate investment in manufacturing, the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative should be resurrected, and funding gaps for small firms in the supply chain need to be plugged.

I welcome the Green Paper’s recognition of the importance of individual councils and combined authorities as key local institutions but again look for a stronger commitment to devolution to enable us to deliver.

The Government must ensure that governance at a regional level, whether through combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, or mayors, should be able to work with development bodies that can intervene more widely and strategically at a regional level, and do smart specialisation through regional level industrial policies.

Diary: MIPIM, ministers and more

As previous updates were welcomed – not least by the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel and opposition leaders on the council – I suspect another update is overdue. So hopefully the following will give a flavour of my work in recent weeks. I shall post some further detail and specifics beyond this overview shortly.

Since my last diary update, the schedule shows no signs of slowing down. Far from it.

I’ve continued to meet many of the unsung community heroes who work tirelessly to make our city a better place. People like Witton Lodge Community Association, the team at the new Stirchley Baths community hub and the dedicated folk behind the Interim Parish Council in Sutton Coldfield.

These groups may all focus on different issues and different parts of the city but they’re united in one thing – the desire to contribute and improve where they live.

Schools obviously play a major role in any future vision for our city and, as a former teacher myself, I’ve been keen to speak to people at all levels of education.

Among a number of engagements, I welcomed artistic pupils from Wilkes Green Infant School, thanking them for the amazing artwork they had provided for my office walls, I’ve visited Matthew Boulton Campus and of course our university campuses.

In early March I spoke to school heads and governors about how we must work with partners to deal with unregistered schools. As importantly, I also set out the importance of the City Council, on behalf of the citizens of Birmingham, re-engaging with schools in a different kind of way in the future. The City Council must see itself, and schools need to see the council, as more in the role of the advocate for the Children of the city, especially where it is no longer the institutional provider of education.

One of my roles is to hold people to account – just as I expect people to hold me to account – and I don’t want to give the impression that my diary is a series of ‘meet and greets’. Far from it. I’m meeting and challenging the people who can and do play a major role in every aspect of Birmingham life.

So, in the role of an advocate for children,I also visited the Perry Beeches III Academy, as it was placed into special measures to discuss the way forward with executive headteacher Liam Nolan. This may be a Free School but it remains part of our school family and, like all young Brummies, the pupils at this school deserve the best possible education. I am sure Mr. Nolan would agree with me that we had a ‘full and frank’ conversation.

I also continue to meet with business leaders, including important employers like Jaguar Land Rover and HSBC. With a view to bringing more investment and high quality jobs to our city and wider region, I’ve had regular meetings with partners in the Midlands Engine, Core Cities and West Midlands Combined Authority.

It would be remiss of me to mention the combined authority without paying tribute to my friend and colleague Darren Cooper, who died suddenly over Easter weekend. I have lost a great friend. Sandwell has lost one of its great sons, and Birmingham has lost one of its great allies. Darren played a major role in bringing West Midlands councils together and the political life of our region will be the poorer for his passing.

On the political front, as you would expect, I’ve had regular meetings with our Birmingham MPs. I’ve also had talks with Government ministers including Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Business Secretary Sajid Javid. From the Shadow Cabinet I welcomed Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as he visited Grand Central and also met with Shadow Transport Secretary Lilian Greenwood.

Our relationships at every level of government are important and cross-party working will continue. But Birmingham is an international city and I was delighted to welcome Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng to our city. I also met a number of city leaders from across the world at international property market event MIPIM.

One thing that was abundantly clear at MIPIM was that successful cities must offer a complete package to be successful. New developments and business growth are of course important but we must also focus on the overall offer. So I’ve had regular meetings with important figures from our cultural sector, including Anita Bhalla from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and Fiona Allan of Birmingham Hippodrome.

This is just a snapshot and I haven’t come anywhere near mentioning all of the people and organisations I come into contact with. But I’ll continue to provide the updates and hopefully they prove useful and informative.