The West Midlands was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and is now a diverse and vibrant region, with one of the most ambitious plans for growth and investment in the U.K. It is comprised of six economic districts known as Local Enterprise Partnerships covering the following areas; Birmingham and Solihull, The Black Country, The Marches, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, Worcestershire, and Coventry and Warwickshire. With the city of Birmingham at the heart of the West Midlands, each area has its own unique character and capabilities.
With an economy worth $168bn, the region is home to 215,000 businesses including the headquarters of international names such as JCB, Jaguar Land Rover, Cadbury, GKN, MG Motors, Wedgwood, and Morgan Cars.
In recent years, the West Midlands has delivered some of the largest regeneration projects in Europe, including the $915 million redevelopment of New Street Station and the $300 million expansion of Birmingham Airport. Located at the heart of the U.K. and, as the country’s third largest airport outside London, Birmingham Airport has the capacity to handle 36 million passengers a year.
There is also a huge opportunity presented by the High Speed (HS2) rail link as a catalyst for business investment. The arrival of the HS2 in 2026 will bring London within a 45 minute train journey of the region and will boost the West Midlands economy by $6.25bn each year, creating more than 51,000 new jobs. Furthermore, new rapid transit links including expansion of the Midland Metro tram system, will allow commuters to move easily and rapidly to employment locations.
WEST MIDLANDS – THE PLACE TO INVEST
The West Midlands has an excellent track record with companies and investors from the U.S.; a key source of inward investment accounting for 20% of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the region. Over the last 10 years, 250 investments from such companies as Kraft, HJ Heinz, and IBM have made the U.S. the global number one investor in the West Midlands.
BIRMINGHAM AND SOLIHULL
Birmingham and Solihull contain many of the economic assets of the conurbation including the airport, Birmingham city center and five major universities, all of which help contribute to a $45bn economy. Birmingham is already transforming itself into a world-class center for business services, financial services, creative and tech, and Solihull is seen as one of the most attractive places to live and build a career in the U.K. Specialties in e-commerce distribution are seeing large IT operations and logistics increasingly based in Solihull. Foreign investment flowing into the region is attracting a more talented labor pool and, along with the highest quality of life of any regional city according to the Mercer index, coupled with the region’s proximity to London, the area is a particularly attractive proposition for investors.
The presence of an increasingly viable and attractive secondary hub less than an hour by train from London is already attracting the relocation of corporate teams to Birmingham and Solihull from the capital. In the largest property deal to take place since 2002, HSBC Bank plc has chosen Birmingham for the head office of its new ring fenced bank. It is a move that will involve relocating 1,200 jobs from London to a new 210,000 sq ft development in Birmingham’s Enterprise Zone.
The region boasts a significant heritage in manufacturing and engineering, one that is rebounding quickly on the back of the inherent world class precision engineering skills in the region and globally renowned brands produced here. Chicago-headquartered HydraForce set up a base in Birmingham in 1988. The company currently employs 280 people at its Birmingham headquarters and designs and manufactures hydraulic equipment and assemblies for the mobile and industrial equipment markets. Following a funding boost, the company plans to double its staff numbers by 2018 and build a new 120,000 sq ft manufacturing facility at Birmingham’s Advanced Manufacturing Hub, one of the city’s economic zones, to allow the company to manufacture more of its products in the U.K.
Birmingham is also investing in its Life Sciences sector with a new Life Science campus and the development of a $36.5 million Institute of Translational Medicine allowing clinicians, academics, patient groups, and industry leaders to facilitate the assessment of cost-effective new drugs and medical devices to bring them to market faster from a single base.
THE BLACK COUNTRY
The Black Country is an economic region of over a million people comprising the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. Within the region, the Black Country Enterprise Zone comprises a portfolio of sites split across two prime locations; Wolverhampton North and Darlaston in Walsall.
i54 Wolverhampton North focuses on high-technology sectors including aerospace, automotive, advanced manufacturing, and business services and is already home to the new one million sq ft Jaguar Land Rover Advanced Engine plant and leading aerospace companies such as Moog.
Darlaston focuses on high value engineering and manufacturing companies producing components for the automotive, aerospace and building technologies sector. Development sites at Darlaston provide a fantastic supply chain location for ‘just in time’ and ‘just in sequence’ delivery.
COVENTRY AND WARWICKSHIRE
With a $30bn economy, Coventry and Warwickshire is home to 37,500 companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and BMW. The area has a particular expertise in automotive engineering, low carbon applications, intelligent transport solutions, and digital gaming. Key investment sites include the $60 million Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) near Coventry which was established to bridge the gap in U.K. manufacturing technology between academia and industry. In addition, The University of Warwick is home to Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and boasts one of Europe’s only measurement tools for volatile chemicals.
STOKE-ON-TRENT & STAFFORDSHIRE
Staffordshire has an economy worth $29bn and, with 75% of the area classified as rural, agriculture and its spin off industries including the food and drink sector contribute strongly to its economy.
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have also long been associated with power generation. Due to its status as a leading U.K. center for power conversion and a location of choice for many of the major firms involved in the energy transmission supply chain, investors such as Alstom, GE Power Conversion, and Siemens Wind Power are all located in the region.
Worcestershire is a diverse county which provides an excellent business location and living environment for its 580,000 population. Sector strengths reflect local specializations across the county and include advanced manufacturing, agri-tech, cyber security, defense, and IT. World class employers in these sectors include companies such as Worcester Bosch, QinetiQ, Yamazaki Mazak, Morgan Motors, and GKN. The agricultural, horticultural, and forestry sector is also an important part of the Worcestershire landscape and economy.
Comprising the counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire together with the boroughs of Telford and Wrekin, the Marches has a positive approach to growth with major private sector developers such as Cargill Inc. continuing to invest in the region.
Established in Hereford for over 50 years, Cargill Inc. provides food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products and services internationally. Recently a $45 million investment was used to expand the plant’s capacity to secure more efficient processes and equipment.
WEST MIDLANDS – THE PLACE TO LIVE & VISIT
After Germany and Australia, more visitors come to the region from the U.S. than any other country. In 2014, the West Midlands welcomed over 55,000 visitors from the U.S., boosting the region’s economy by $13 million.
Prime rents in London are now making companies reconsider their London footprint in ever increasing numbers, particularly those in business and financial services, tech, creative, and media, where even East London’s tech community is no longer immune to rising prices. With increased levels of business investment has come an influx of young professionals. Some 5,500 Londoners in their thirties moved to Birmingham last year alone – the highest of any regional city. Couple this with those who have moved to Coventry in the same period and the number exceeds 8,000.
From Michelin-starred restaurants to street food at free arts festivals; a kick-about in a local park to one of the largest urban parks in Europe, to the arts and crafts perfection of a quiet retreat; the West Midlands offers an unbeatable lifestyle that marries the bustle and culture of a cosmopolitan region with the beauty of one of the greenest parts of Europe. With the region’s status as an industrial powerhouse, the highest quality of life ranking outside London, and record visitor numbers, the West Midlands’ offer as a place to invest, visit, and live is unrivaled.
For more information contact:
Wouter Schuitemaker, BABC Midlands board member and Investment Director at Business Birmingham
Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP – http://centreofenterprise.com
Black Country LEP – www.blackcountrylep.co.uk
Coventry and Warwickshire LEP – www.cwlep.com
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP – www.stokestaffslep.org.uk
Worcestershire LEP – www.wlep.co.uk
The Marches LEP – www.marcheslep.org.uk