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Over 40 years of success in Birmingham and Solihull

NEC Group Conventions and Exhibitions

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide insight on the findings of our new publication Doing Business in Solihull: An Economic Snapshot.

Doing Business in Solihull: An Economic Snapshot is produced by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce policy team. It offers an introduction to the local economy and business community within Solihull. The report is sponsored by Prime Accountants Group, one of the West Midland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants, forensic accountants, business and financial advisors.

This post is featured in the full report here.

I have the pride of leading fantastic teams that manage the NEC - one of Europe’s leading exhibition and live event venues -  as well as the Vox,  our newest and most exciting new conferencing space that is challenging the norms, right here in Solihull Borough. My role also extends to include the management of the International Convention Centre (ICC) in central Birmingham.

It’s been 43 years now since the NEC was officially opened by the Queen in 1976. In those early days we started with just five exhibition halls. We now have 182,000 square metres of covered exhibition space, in 20 interconnecting halls, in addition to 34 conference suites and over 160 acres of hard standing ground and 75 acres of woodland. And we’re still growing - the opening of Resorts World Birmingham, with its shops, hotel and casino, has been a game changer for us, helping us to turn the NEC campus into a 24/7 destination. A recent partnership with Merlin Entertainments has also seen the launch of another new attraction on the NEC campus - the first Bear Grylls Adventure with its indoor skydiving, assault courses and swimming with sharks!

Our success and growth are significant drivers for the economy of Solihull and the wider West Midlands area.  We employ almost 1,500 people on a permanent basis, and almost 300 casual workers. The NEC Group delivers a £2 billion annual impact on the regional economy – around £1.5 billion of which is delivered by the NEC. 

The connectivity of our site really contributes to our achievements. We sit within a three-hour drive of 75 per cent of the UK’s population and we are of course, physically linked to Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International train station and post 2026, also a high-speed rail station which will connect us to London in just 38 minutes. We benefit massively from our venues being so easily accessible by air, rail and road. This means visitors and delegates can reach their destination with ease, whilst organisers and promoters can be confident that their events will grow in venues where anything is possible.

Our position in the Solihull Borough not only helps attract customers, but it also helps us attract a wealth of talented staff. We draw strength from our people, many of which have been with us for 10, 20 and even 30 years! We invest heavily in developing our talent, from leadership progression to apprenticeship schemes. We’re delighted to have recruited large numbers of local apprentices in more traditional areas such as catering and electricians, as well as new areas such as IT, arena rigging and ticketing. We’ve also developed close links with local education and training establishments, including Solihull College, which has seen us go on to offer placements, internships and support venue management curriculums. 

We like to shout about the impact we make not only to our borough, but regionally and nationally. We estimate that because of the NEC Group businesses, 29,000 full-time equivalent jobs are supported, many in companies here in the West Midlands. As a key player in the delivery of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, hosting a total of nine sports in three venues – the NEC, Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham - we also share the vision to showcase our region to a new global audience.

Kathryn James
Managing director
NEC Group Conventions and Exhibitions