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Tim Pile reflects on 2018 and looks ahead to 2019

Tim Pile, Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (GBSLEP), comments on the achievements of the last 12 months and considers how 2019 will be a year for further engagement, investment and growth.

Last year was my first full year as Chair of GBSLEP. Despite being aware of the LEP’s work for some time, it was fascinating to see up close the ways in which we work closely with our partners to support the growth of the local economy, create new jobs and improve the quality of life in Greater Birmingham and Solihull.

The strong collaboration between our partners is demonstrated through the trailblazing West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, the launch of mentoring schemes for local SMEs, and investment in major projects such as Lichfield Southern Bypass.

Landmark schemes funded by GBSLEP in 2018 included, opening up access to Tyseley Energy Park, which will support the low carbon economy in the region; the Prince’s Trust skills and enterprise hub for local young people; an events building at the National Memorial Arboretum, which will attract business tourism into southern Staffordshire and the wider city region; while the new Hoobrook Link Road is easing congestion and attracting investment in Kidderminster.

Beyond individual projects, the region’s economy is gaining momentum. The numbers speak for themselves. Greater Birmingham and Solihull generated nearly 30,000 new private sector jobs in the past year. Unemployment is falling steadily. In real terms, the economy grew by 20% between 2010 and 2017 – with Greater Birmingham and Solihull the fastest growing Core City LEP area during this period.

All of this and more has helped to boost the region’s quality of life, with the GBSLEP area climbing the rankings in PwC’s Good Growth for Cities 2018 index. Our area is now in third place among Core City LEPs, up from fourth last year, boosted by lower unemployment, improvements in health outcomes and improved skilled levels in our workforce.

Building on the success of 2018, there is still much to do to ensure that we are making a real difference to the businesses that operate here and the people who live and work in the area. I am working closely with the Board to track our targets and make sure that we remain ambitious as well as realistic.

One of the LEP’s key aims for 2019 is to deepen the level of engagement with businesses across all parts of Greater Birmingham and Solihull. We will be launching a business engagement forum to aide even closer working with companies of all sizes to design and deliver interventions that will continue to help drive economic growth.

We must also continue to invest in the right infrastructure for growth – helping to create thousands of new jobs, attract new investment, support the future development of our economy and close the local skills gap.

Greater Birmingham, and the wider West Midlands, continues to attract new businesses, investment and jobs during an uncertain economic and political climate. We are committed to maintaining this track record, and capitalising on upcoming milestones that include the 5G technology test-bed, HS2 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

During 2019, we will work with partners to ensure the Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands delivers key interventions for the economy – creating opportunities to boost productivity, employment, innovation and skills in areas such as, the creative industries, life sciences and professional and financial services.

This is a team effort and while our Board and executive team play their part, it is the drive and energy of our businesses, educational bodies and public sector partners that are responsible for this success. I look forward to working with you all in 2019 to support the further growth of Greater Birmingham’s economy.