What are the drivers for development in Birmingham?
There are a number of different aspects to development of a region and the
issue is how do you bring coherence to those aspects? First there is an agenda about driving the economy of the city; the second agenda is about making the city more attractive to bring investment in; and there is a third agenda around providing lifestyles for those living or working in the city. Each of those three agendas has to have something going on that is addressing those objectives.
You launched a prospectus for economic zones across the Birmingham area with
the Local Enterprise Partnership in September 2012. What was behind that move?
The economic zones prospectus was all about bringing us out of the economic doldrums in
a way which meant we bucked the economic trend a little by being proactive. We realised that there were certain sections of the Birmingham economy that needed to be played out harder. In the past 20 years the growing sector has been the professional services sector. And so what Birmingham has to do is ensure that what has been a growing sector continues to grow. And that is partly about skills but it is also about attractiveness.
IF YOU ACTUALLY HAD THE OTHER NON-CAPITAL CITIES OF BRITAIN PERFORMING AT THE LEVEL OF THE NON-CAPITAL CITIES OF FRANCE OR GERMANY THEN OUR GDP WOULD RISE.
How do you make a city attractive to inward investment?
One way is to provide a location that is attractive – with an attractive city centre and
things such as pedestrian zones. But equally we had to introduce culture and have, for example, a City of Birmingham symphony Orchestra playing in the one of the best acoustic halls in Europe. It is a lifestyle choice. There are now restaurants in Birmingham that weren’t there before, hotels in Birmingham and leisure facilities that weren’t there. Together they make Birmingham attractive to the professional services sector and that encourages investment agenda.
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London still receives the lion’s share of public funding for infrastructure. Is that understandable or should it change?
Of course it should change – this country cannot be a single pole. The problem with
Britain is that everything is London-centric and therefore the economy of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool [and other major cities] underperform the economies of their equivalent cities in France and Germany. If you actually had the other non-capital cities of Britain performing at the level of the non-capital cities of France or Germany then our GDP would rise.
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