A shared role in boosting business growth is critical says GBSLEP Interim Chair, Anita Bhalla

20 May 2022

In the past few months, the cost of living crisis has replaced COVID in the headlines and news bulletins with commentators, lobby groups and charities calling on the Government to help the hardest hit whilst also stimulating business growth.

In an interview earlier this week, one of the most prominent voices from the business community the CBI Director-General Tony Danker reinforced the challenges businesses face when investing in this economic climate where inflation is rising, the Ukraine crisis continues and energy costs skyrocket. However, he was very clear in his view that there is a shared role for both the Government and business to raise productivity and boost local and national economic growth.

This approach sits at the heart of our mission at GBSLEP. Over the last 11 years, our partnership of public, private and academic bodies and leaders has delivered transformative projects to deliver inclusive economic growth. Using locally-led intelligence and business insight, we’ve strategically invested central Government and European funding to create better places for people to live, work and visit. We are on track to invest £1.85 billion into the regional economy which will leverage £4.72 billion from the public and private sector.

To illustrate these numbers, you only need to visit Birmingham and see how Paradise has transformed the city centre in the last 7 years. Our £139 million Enterprise Zone funding - delivered through our unique arrangement with Birmingham City Council – has been the catalyst for private investment to flow in, with companies like PWC, DLA Piper and Arup making this oasis their home.

These larger investments have provided certainty to the business community locally even during the pandemic. However, in this current time where uncertainty has greater currency, how do we collectively encourage the Government to do, as Tony Danker said during his interview ‘Confirm, fund and launch’ projects particularly green investments that can drive growth whilst also achieving our net zero ambitions?

We can help provide examples of where this is already happening. A project we’ve funded and being involved in from day one is Tyseley Energy Park. It’s a 300-year old business coming together with local stakeholders like Birmingham City Council, University of Birmingham and us. It’s helping to regenerate a part of South Birmingham and is a big piece of the clean growth jigsaw in Birmingham. Its zero-refueling station is used by hydrogen buses, local SMEs in the incubator space develop new green technologies and the owners of the site, the Horsfall family are open and engaging with the local community. This even sounds like ‘levelling up’ to me!

Central government investment into green projects will be critical in the future but just as critical is how we help our SMEs in the immediate term. GBSLEP is already doing this by delivering business support through the Growth Hub. We have dedicated teams working across sustainability, skills and sector specialisms.

Businesses across the region need to invest in new technologies to boost productivity but also efficiency in light of rising energy costs. Our £1.2 million Clean Growth programme does just this – giving grants to businesses to help make their operations more sustainable.

We must also continue to invest in our people. Our dedicated Skills Advisors are helping employers with their workforce needs and providing opportunities, whether its training or apprenticeships. In this challenging economic time, it’s still vital that we help our providers to support local people to access skills and education.

In the coming weeks, leading groups like the CBI will continue to lobby the Government. Like we have done for many years GBSLEP will continue to work together with businesses, local councils and universities and colleges to deliver on the ground, helping our communities and businesses to succeed.

By GBSLEP Interim Chair, Anita Bhalla

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