Connecting communities with opportunities


This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide insight on the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review.

The Birmingham Economic Review 2019 is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in the full Birmingham Economic Review 2019 and the Summary Review. These are available here.

Birmingham is the most exciting and dynamic city in Britain right now. We have more new businesses being set up, more jobs being created and more investment coming in than anywhere outside of London. This is a city and a population that is welcoming, ambitious, and is transforming a rate of great pace. It’s no coincidence that it is also at the very heart of the new high speed rail network.

HS2 is real and happening and is very proudly a catalyst of this positive change and increased opportunity.  Simply walking around Birmingham it’s difficult to miss all the hoardings, cranes, machinery and construction work taking place – this is progress and this brings new opportunities.  There are now 9,000 jobs supported by our programme and 2,000 businesses (70% of these are SMEs) that have provided work. These are people and businesses that are already winning work, gaining employment and contributing the to the largest early works programme in modern history and are active on one of HS2’s 250 live construction sites.

We have UK Business leaders backing HS2, with business leaders, the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce all in support as they understand the opportunities available.  At peak construction, over 30,000 people will be needed to design and build the railway. We have already let around £10bn worth of contracts and by the end of next year that will be around £20bn. This equates to real jobs spread across the UK – be it the ecologists planting one of the 7 million new trees that will form our Green Corridor along Phase One, or the plant operators on one of our many sites, through to HGV drivers, surveyors, ground investigations analysts, demolition experts… the list goes on and is rich with opportunity.

Birmingham is at the heart of this new opportunity-rich network and is one of the biggest winners. With the certainty provided by gaining Royal Assent of the Phase One Bill, Birmingham is already reaping the benefits of HS2 and the arrival of high speed services has provided a renewed sense of confidence and dynamism in the region’s economy.

This is evident from the data which shows how the West Midlands is increasingly attractive to inward investment, attracting 151 Foreign Direct Investments in 2016/17, up from 57 projects in 2011/12, a 150% increase.  This inward investment has created more new jobs than any region outside of London, with 7,000 new jobs already created in the Midlands to deliver HS2.

Alongside large global companies which are making the city their home, there is a thriving eco-system of small and medium sized businesses, with more new companies registered in Birmingham in 2018 than any other UK city outside of London.

When we think of how development looks in real term, considering how Brindley Place was once a labyrinth of derelict factories, a relic of the city’s proud industrial past, but neglected for many years, is a prime example of how opportunity can be converted. Its development hasn’t just created thousands of new jobs for Birmingham, but improved our quality of life too.

Brindley Place is now proudly a key destination for the city. Be it leisure or business, you can visit to see a show, go for dinner, take in a new art exhibition or brave the gift shop at the national sea life centre at the weekend. It’s become much more than a list of impressive stats about jobs, homes, and office space – it’s a point of pride for the city, and an exemplar of positive change resulting from investment.

So while we anticipate that our pipeline of development could deliver a return to government of £4bn, we can’t put a price on how it will change the lives and opportunities for those who will use it.

We are more than a railway and nowhere is that more evident than here in Birmingham. The City Council envisage HS2 bringing 36,000 new jobs, 4,000 new homes and 600,000 square metres of commercial development to the city. The regional economy will be boosted to the tune of £14 billion when taking into account Interchange station down at Solihull too.

That’s the future, but the benefits are already being felt now. A 150% increase in foreign direct investment. 18,500 new companies registered here last year and 7,000 new jobs created delivering HS2. We are proud to be playing our part in writing the Birmingham success story.

James Danby
Head of Commercial Development