We start the year with an increased focus on the West Midlands, enabling the Company to work more closely with partners across the region. As a business, we continue to focus on three core areas: business attraction, capital attraction and visitor attraction. I am keen that we sharpen our focus on market and customer insight as the market becomes increasingly competitive.

2022 Commonwealth Games

To maximise the economic benefits of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Company has been asked, on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Birmingham City Council (BCC), in partnership with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department of International Trade (DIT), to develop a business case to deliver a new, integrated programme of international promotion and events that will increase opportunities for the region focusing on tourism, trade and investment.

The Games are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to showcase the UK to international investors, businesses, entrepreneurs, students and visitors. We have been working with stakeholders to develop a proposal for a three-year programme of delivery that will also incorporate existing DIT and partner’s events of International significance, including the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) and the DIT Games Time Global Business Summit.

Aligned to the market opportunities identified in the West Midlands Industrial Strategy, the programme has been designed to support economic prosperity and inclusive growth, and deliver a lasting economic legacy from the Games.

Business attraction

Last month the DIT released the latest figures for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Encouragingly the West Midlands has retained its position as the UK’s leading region outside London and the South East. A total of 155 new FDI projects were recorded in the region during 2018/19, with the number of new, associated jobs created totalling 5,044. The figure representing new jobs is higher than all regions outside London and the South East and the figure representing FDI employment surpassed all UK regional locations.

The figures do show the challenge the EU referendum has created despite our continued efforts. The FDI market has become tougher, as businesses put their investment decisions on hold and assess what they believe is economic uncertainty. The region has witnessed a decline in figures compared to last year, against a national backdrop where a reduction of FDI volumes and sentiment is clearly visible.

Our work during the first quarter of the year has combined taking existing projects through the pipeline and identifying more regional opportunities to bring into that pipeline. This has included supporting:

  • The world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance fibre lasers IPG Photonics, which invested £15 million in Coventry
  • A transportation services company Genesee & Wyoming who located its UK Shared Services Centre in Birmingham, investing £30 million and creating 100 jobs
  • Swedish engineering group Atlas Copco who invested £10 million to create a bespoke manufacturing facility at i54 South Staffordshire

Visitor attraction

On the visitor attraction side, we have continued to deliver our existing projects and worked closely with partners to develop a new Regional Tourism strategy, to create a shared vision and momentum to grow the visitor economy.  We’ll be celebrating the success in this area working in partnership with Reach PLC on the first West Midlands tourism awards, with entries opening in the next few weeks.

We’ve come together to create a regional presence at The Meetings Show to bring more conferences and events to the region, our convention bureau team represented the West Midlands with a record number of appointments - the team are here to help so do talk to them to find out how our free service can help you. Finally, the Government's announcement of the signing of a Tourism Sector Deal opens several opportunities for our region. Primarily, we will be talking to you about bidding to become a Tourism Action Zone, complementing the region's major events in 2021 and 2022.

Capital attraction

Our capital attraction work has mainly been focused on building our capacity to deliver but has also included a mission to the Middle East. A Capital Investment Advisory board comprising regeneration directors from the 7 LA’s and executive directors from the WMCA has now met and commissioned a market insight exercise to assess current capital investment flows into the region and an analysis of national and international trends. In addition, further collaborative promotional opportunities are being identified to promote existing investment opportunities.

Neil Rami
Chief Executive
February 2019