Andy Street Blog – January 2015
With 2015 getting underway, Andy Street – chairman of the GBSLEP, gives his thoughts on the many exciting new projects and initiatives set to come to life this year.
Undoubtedly the West Midlands is now leading the UK recovery with the latest statistics showing the greatest fall in unemployment in our region – a credit to the hard work of businesses across the GBSLEP area. I feel optimistic that such a welcome trend can continue as there are so many signs of progress around us. The underlying economic situation is clearly the biggest indication of success, but we also have a lot of ‘home grown’ reasons to be optimistic.
The first reason is the ‘Growth Deal’. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently visited Birmingham where he joined private and public sector directors from the GBSLEP board to sign our Growth Deal.
2014’s announcement of the Growth Deal secured an impressive £357m of government funding, as well as a further private sector leverage for local economic development projects.
We have some important targets under the Growth Deal including the creation of up to 19,000 new jobs by 2020, the building of 6,000 new homes, helping 7,600 people to improve their skills and introducing a wider package of investment to improve transport and unlock stalled development sites across the region.
Now we see the promise of the Growth Deal becoming a reality as our first tranche of projects with a total value of £63m are due to commence in April 2015.
But we must not be satisfied with that alone and should think about how to explore this new way of working with central Government, which is something the Growth Deal heralded. It is a true partnership with the Government.
The next big source of optimism must be the growing momentum around HS2 and ensuring our area is well positioned to exploit its potential in terms of investment, jobs and skills. Plans are advancing impressively for both the Curzon Street and Interchange stations, and it was an undoubted coup to secure the HS2 construction headquarters for Two Snowhill. Similarly, the competitive award of the High Speed Rail College for Birmingham was a great team success, beating many other potential locations.
2015 will also see the completion of major infrastructure projects including New Street Station and the Metro extension, alongside commercial ‘votes of confidence’ such as Grand Central, the Mailbox refurbishment and Resorts World at the NEC.
One of the benefits of LEPs has been their use of original thinking to develop new and innovative ways of generating growth. Our Enterprise Zone (EZ), the only city centre based EZ in the UK and is emerging as an example of this. Alongside Birmingham City Council, we have developed what we believe is a unique finance model to create a £275m Investment Plan. Among other things this fund will make investments in infrastructure works, which will allow private sector expenditures to occur, both in the EZ, and across the wider LEP.
The outstanding example of this thinking is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus, now renamed simply “Paradise.” This promises to be the next iconic piece of the city centre’s reinvention and is an excellent example of how the GBSLEP and our partners have worked together to help unlock this major development. In time it will create a substantial number of jobs, helping to attract significant commercial investment. Personally I am hugely looking forward to seeing this development take shape, although I’ll admit to a little sadness at seeing the old library go, as after all that’s where I studied for my ‘A’ levels – happy memories
Another EZ supported project to get underway in January is Innovation Birmingham’s iCentrum™ building. Expected to open in March 2016, this is the first phase of expansion for the Innovation Birmingham Campus. An anticipated 400 new high skilled jobs are one of the benefits to result from the project. It is also extremely well timed as the demand for such capacity is clear after Birmingham was once again named start-up capital of the regions in the Sunday Times.
So, 2015 promises to be an exciting year and has already got off to an excellent start with these new projects beginning and the prospects of others concluding during the year. Of these the Institute of Translational Medicine under Birmingham Health Partners is perhaps the most exciting. It is housed in the QE Hospital and brings that historic building back into use. It is at the leading edge of the life sciences industry and will improve patients’ lives by ‘translating’ medical research into new treatments. That is powerful in itself, but it also shows the growing diversity and hidden strengths of our economy.
2015 will be the year when those strengths show through thanks in part to the public and private sectors combining for the mutual benefit of our citizens. That’s the GBSLEP mission.
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