Disruption is a time of opportunity
The regions leaders must act now to make the most of the opportunities following the EU Referendum according to Chair Andy Street in a recent comment piece to the Birmingham Post – first published in The Birmingham Post 7 July 2016
“In your excellent round up of post Brexit reaction last week, there was one real concern that has prompted me to write this piece – your story that HS2 may be the victim of the vote to leave the EU. Such a thought would be a tragedy for our economy, and illustrates my fundamental point that however difficult the background, as a region we much look for opportunities in the current situation. We must learn the lesson of business, that it is in times of greatest disruption, that future success is born. For our region, it is about determining our own destiny, wherever possible, and leading through the current uncertainties.
“Firstly, we must acknowledge the unprecedented political turbulence, and the effect that is undoubtedly having on business and consumer confidence. We know that for some business sectors pre-Referendum nervousness already created a slowdown in activity, and that is now likely to be sustained. However, thus far, the ‘crisis’ is a political one, not an economic one.
“Equally, it is already clear that the impact for each business sector is different. The common factor over the last two weeks will have been boardroom meetings across the region, looking for opportunity in the new reality. For our exporting heavyweights, the reduction in the value of the pound is good news in the short term. Longer term, many of the current corporate success stories can trace their vibrancy to decisions taken in the teeth of the 2008 crash. I have no doubt the same will be true this time, as the reward for decisiveness is always greater in times of disruption, be it technological, social or economic.
“Seizing opportunity must also be the mantra of our regional leadership. We must be the leading part of the national solution. In short, we must, as we have over the last five years, emerge as a victor from this time of change. And that is undoubtedly a realistic prospect if we play our cards well.
“In our region we are much better prepared for the fight than previously. Our leading sectors; automotive, aerospace, life sciences, and professional services, are all now proven as internationally competitive.
“Similarly, the entrepreneurial culture of the region, as reflected in start-up, and growth statistics, is visibly stronger. And, finally, the creativity and innovative nature of our young, tech savvy, population will make us a business success for the future.
“Most significantly, our infrastructure is already improving, and we must now stand up to secure the promise to come. HS2 is absolutely key, putting Birmingham and Solihull at the heart of the country’s new 21st century network. It is already happening and having an effect on our economy. Jobs are already being enjoyed at the construction headquarters here at Snowhill, the National College for High Speed Rail is being built at Eastside, and across the region companies are already tendering for work. The statistics for the value of potential work are worth dwelling on. In March, HS2 Ltd issued invitations to tender for £900m of “enabling works”, and also sought another £500m of engineering design work. But just last month a massive step forward was taken with the invitation to tender for the main civils contracts for phase one of the line. This is valued at £5.4bn to £8.6bn, a colossal commitment by Government for our businesses to bid for.
“So, now is not the time to doubt HS2. Our job as regional leaders is to press firmly on with our plans for delivering its transformational potential. We have already seen outstanding examples of this; the masterplanning for the Curzon Street area, the vision for UK Central and the teamwork which brought the College to Birmingham, thus cementing our position at the heart of a new high tech industry.
“Beyond HS2, we are extremely well placed to make the most of the new political reality. The collaboration which has yielded the Combined Authority and our Devolution Deal, will be highly regarded by any newly formed Government, whilst the economic growth we have enjoyed, and promise for the future, must make our region one to back. Both decisions are utterly logical, and for sure any new PM won’t be able to ignore them.
“Finally, we have a marvellous opportunity to show our actual achievements and potential when the Conservative Conference comes to town in October. We must seize our moment – change always brings opportunity.”