When I joined GBSLEP as Chair in October, it was clear that we have many reasons to be optimistic about the Greater Birmingham and Solihull economy. It has been performing strongly for a few years now – and its record number of private sector jobs is a great example of this. More than 23,000 new private sector jobs were created across Greater Birmingham and Solihull during 2016, a 3.2% rise, against an average of 2.3% across England.
Moreover, the local economy grew 4.7% in 2015 – the highest growth rate of any core city LEP – to reach a GVA of £44.5 billion. 2016 saw similarly impressive growth of 2.9%, again, well above the core city average.
At the LEP, we are determined to cement Greater Birmingham and Solihull as a place where businesses can thrive – with a skilled workforce, accessible transport links, vibrant business networks and large customer base. A key focus for me therefore is to build on this solid foundation by working with our Board, executive and wide range of partners to identify the opportunities to build on this success.
A lot is owed to the whole GBSLEP team for their dedication since 2010, establishing the LEP as a trusted organisation and providing the platform for us to make a real impact on economic performance and business growth. Much hard work is coming to fruition and we have plenty more activity in the pipeline.
Three months into my role as Chair, GBSLEP announced the completion of the 20th capital project supported by our Local Growth Fund – representing an important milestone for the LEP. The fact that another nine projects are soon to be completed shows how the LEP is gaining momentum. Projects that have been supported include the new Virtual Reality and Robotics Development Centre at Solihull College, which reflects the GBSLEP’s focus on galvanising the skills provision in the region.
However, providing support for capital projects is not the only way that GBSLEP supports the local economy. We are not just a funding organisation, but work proactively to identify and remove barriers to growth for companies in a range of ways.
Our executive team recently introduced a pilot scheme with Be the Business, providing mentoring for local manufacturers from industry leaders. The advice and expertise from these mentors can be priceless for local firms wanting to scale up. Birmingham city centre’s Enterprise Zone also offers a range of business support and incentives that is attracting a wide range of companies here – including HSBC, which is opening its ring-fenced UK banking headquarters in the city next month.
As we move forward, we have identified sectors of real high value and growth and will be focusing on interventions that help these sectors to grow and thrive. We will be working with more businesses and partners to offer them the support and advice that they require to realise their potential and boost the economy. Additionally, we are working on opportunities for local people to train, or re-train, to access jobs that are being generated as a result of major projects like HS2.
The positive results that partners and I have seen so far in 2018 are testament to the hard work of the wider GBSLEP team, at Board level and through our executive team. This is proof of the benefits of working in partnership with other organisations, both national and regional, and we are all committed to continuing this into the future.