Reflections on a Year No One Could Have Predicted
22 Dec 2020
When we embarked on our working year back in 2020, I never imagined we would all be facing a pandemic that has tested, challenged, and pushed businesses and individuals to build resilience as we collectively work towards a viable recovery. Undoubtedly this year has been tremendously tough for all of us but GBSLEP has remained deeply focused on our mission to drive inclusive economic growth now and in the long term and to help businesses to survive through the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.
At the start of this year our GBSLEP region was one of the most promising in the country. It is my view that it still is! Since 2010 our economy has grown twice that of the average of major English city-regions and our Local Growth Fund reached a major milestone, with investment surpassing £180 million, creating 5764 new jobs and unlocking 1379 homes since its inception. The foundations we have laid, I believe, will enable to us to come back from the current economic downturn.
Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, GBSLEP continues to work with our partners across the private, public, and academic sectors to invest in places, people and projects that lead to job creation, upskilling, and long-term growth in our region. At the same time, we continue to use our agile, business led approach to create support packages in response to the pandemic. Our Step Forward programme has seen several interventions designed to help business leaders through our turbulent times. Nearly £2 million has already been allocated from our very successful match funding Pivot and Prosper grant scheme to enable organisations to adjust their business models, and our work continues in creating support tailored to the needs of the businesses across our key sectors.
As well as responding to this year’s health and economic crisis, we are also committed to supporting businesses to navigate the impacts of the end of UK’s transition period out of the EU.
Our response to the skills gap in our region has seen the opening of a new Skills and Apprenticeship Hub which is instrumental in ensuring a business led approach in matching training with skills and employment needs. With one of the youngest populations in Birmingham youth unemployment continues to be a significant challenge and it is vital we look to create a suitably equipped workforce for our future. Our sector-led work in low carbon, advanced manufacturing, creative industries, health tech and life sciences and business, professional and financial services is critical in forging a pathway ahead.
We remain committed to securing the future of, and helping reimagine, our towns and local centres through providing funding and advice to create exciting and inclusive places. We are also deeply committed to delivering investment through our capital programmes.
The end of the year is when we all tend to reflect and to look forwards. As already mentioned, I profoundly believe that our region is packed full of promise and opportunity as we face the twin challenges of EU exit and Covid. It is our collective duty and our passion to deliver inclusive economic growth for our region, our businesses and our citizens. It is not going to be easy – far from it – but with shared commitment and purpose, working together, we can ensure that we emerge stronger than before.
I wish you a safe Christmas and look forward to making tomorrow better than today as we head into 2021.
Chair, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership