GBSLEP Chair, Steve Hollis looks ahead for 2017
We said last year that this is our time and it is an exciting time for me to be Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.
2016 was a momentous year for us, with the launch of the £1bn Curzon Investment Plan, hosting the Prime Minister at our fringe event during the Conservative Party Conference and the successful launch of our refreshed Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) – which sets out our ambitions to be recognised as a top global city region by 2030.
Our focus in 2017 is on delivering these ambitious plans and making good on the promises we have made. In particular, we must address our long-standing challenges with productivity and skills. This year will see the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and we intend to work with businesses to make the most of the opportunities of this key development to improve skills levels.
I’m pleased HS2 will be going through Royal Assent in the coming weeks. We are in a unique position in the UK – indeed in Europe – to maximise the benefits of high speed rail, with two station sites in touching distance of a major airport at the heart of the road and rail networks. Our HS2 Growth Programme is vital to providing regeneration, jobs and growth for the region. We have already taken significant steps to support its delivery and this year will see further progress including the National College of High Speed Rail welcoming its first students and the letting of further contracts we hope local businesses will benefit from.
Last year saw the West Midlands Combined Authority go from strength to strength with the launch of its Strategic Economic Plan and the receipt of its first allocation of funding secured through its Devolution Deal. GBSLEP and the Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire LEPs have been key partners along the way, working in collaboration to drive further economic growth. The election of the Mayor for the West Midlands in May is a hugely significant next step. I’d encourage everyone to engage in the debate and we, as GBSLEP, look forward to working with the successful candidate.
This will also be a big year for the Midlands Engine. GBSLEP has been right behind the Engine since its inception and we will continue to work with Sir John Peace and his team to develop and deliver the Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect Strategies.
With that in mind, we welcome the publication of the Modern Industrial Strategy Green Paper and Government’s commitment to delivering a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people throughout the UK. We look forward to working with partners in the Midlands and Government throughout the consultation and to playing a key role in delivery.
Given Greater Birmingham’s status as a major exporting region with links around the world, it would be remiss of me not to mention the geopolitical climate and the uncertainty that it brings. We have weathered turbulent times before and come out stronger – I am confident that we have the talent, the assets and the resolve to do so again and to provide a stable economic environment that will inspire the investor confidence which is key to continued success.
I’d like to close by thanking you, our partners and stakeholders across the public, private and education sectors. Our partnership’s track record of success is down to the ambition and collaboration that you have demonstrated in recent years and together, we have fostered one of the most vibrant, welcoming and economically successful parts of the UK. On behalf of the LEP Board, I look forward to working with you in the months ahead to deliver a Greater Birmingham for a Greater Britain.