Attracting inward investment was the topic up for debate at the West Midlands Growth Company’s latest partner event.
Held on Wednesday 15th May at IET Birmingham: Austin Court, Nicola Hewitt, Commercial Director at WMGC, began by presenting the regional investment strategy.
The strategy focuses on four target sectors for generating investment, which are aligned with the West Midlands’ wider economic growth plans and the region’s newly-launched Local Industrial Strategy. Developing a clearly defined narrative about the region and its ambitions underpins the strategy, to unlock more investment opportunities within the UK and overseas.
“One of the key elements of the strategy is to have a cohesive regional pitch – a regional proposition. We’re doing a lot of work on developing this narrative and are creating a bank of tools that we will share with our partners over the next year, so we can collectively tell the story of our region.”
As a recent investor, Esmond Kensington, Head of Strategy and Chief of Staff at HSBC UK, spoke about why the bank chose to relocate its UK headquarters to the region:
“The West Midlands has an ambitious view for the future. That was important for us as we see high growth potential here. Projects like HS2 will add to the regional economy and help our connectivity, which is very important for a company like ours when you’re thinking about where to move to.”
Singing from the same hymn sheet
Ian Cornock, Lead Director – Midlands Region at JLL, chaired the panel discussion.
Comments echoed that clear messaging shared between the region’s universities, businesses and public sector organisations is critical to attracting inward investment.
Jane Whitlock, Midlands Practice Senior Partner at Deloitte, commented:
“Selling the story of the West Midlands on why you can build a career and be successful here, without needing to go to London is really important. It’s really great to see big businesses like HSBC coming to the region and making a real point of building their organisations here, demonstrating that we really can be an equivalent to the capital.”
Paul Gascoine, Head of Place, Partnerships and New Business – Midlands, Homes England added:
“We’ve got to be consistent about the sales pitch for the West Midlands, but I also think there is a role to create a narrative for local places within that and consider what their role is within this bigger opportunity. We mustn’t just concentrate on Birmingham but think about Coventry, Stratford, Stafford and others and what role they’ll be playing in this combined effort to grow the regional economy.”
Speaking about the region’s investment pipeline, Esmond Kensington commented:
“Ironically I think opportunities will be created. In financial services, a lot of companies are thinking very carefully about what will happen over the next five to ten years and whether they need to be in London. I think this is something we should do more with, particularly as there is a growing financial services centre of expertise here in the region.”
The region has a strong technology cluster, with over 12,450 businesses within this sector based in the West Midlands Combined Authority area.
Considering how our other industries can benefit from this pool of expertise, Professor Clive Roberts, Professor of Railway Systems and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education - University of Birmingham, said:
“In the region, the Black Country LEP area has the biggest percentage of railway related jobs and quite a lot of these are conventional, engineering roles. These companies are active and doing good things, but some are not necessarily engaging in the new innovations that they need to remain competitive in the future.
“One key area is to make sure we join those things up and support businesses that are already here, either by providing capability and skills or by partnering them with businesses to help them move into more modern technologies. The region is well equipped to do this”
The ingredients of success
Concluding the discussion, Ian Cornock commented:
“It’s clear we’ve got the ingredients here. We’ve got connectivity, political stability, fantastic quality of life, heritage, talent and a very well-established and diverse business base. As a result, we’re attracting inward investment already but there is always more to do.
“The two key messages for me are about collaborating across the private and public sector with our universities and really promoting what a fantastic region we have. It’s up to all of us in this room to go out and deliver that message far and wide, by going out to London and internationally.”
Click here to see the full PowerPoint presentation from the event.
The next partner event will be the West Midlands Growth Company’s Summer Drinks on Wednesday 3 July 2019 at Canalside Birmingham. For further information, please contact us here