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‘Humble’ Brummies must shout out about city’s attractions, chamber chief warns

‘Humble’ Brummies must shout out about city’s attractions, chamber chief warns

🕔28.Oct 2015

Brummies have been too hard on themselves in the past and have “bought into negative stereotypes” of Birmingham, the chief executive of the chamber of commerce has warned.

Declaring himself to be “unashamedly upbeat” about the future, Paul Faulkner said people from outside the area were all too ready to put down a city they had never visited and urged Birmingham to shout up loudly for itself.

Mr Faulkner, who took over at the head of the chamber of commerce earlier in the year, found himself addressing a matter that has been a thorny issue over many years – how to improve Birmingham’s image in order to compete with unashamedly proactive cities like Manchester.

Addressing a chamber dinner, Mr Faulkner said:

We’ve been too humble or hard on ourselves and bought into the general negative stereotypes of Birmingham that still seem to exist today amongst people who don’t actually spend any time in the city.

Noting that Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Manchester during his state visit to promote the Government’s Northern Powerhouse vision, Mr Faulkner warned that Birmingham would have to do far more to promote itself or the city may “end up being passed over”.

He added:

There is a real risk that if we don’t shout more loudly and positively about what is good in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands, and do that collectively, then we may end up being passed over somewhat for future opportunities that should reside here and that we will need to further fuel the redevelopment of the region and the continuation of the renaissance that we can see all around us.

He said the Greater Birmingham city region had an attractive lifestyle offering with Birmingham now the most popular destination in the country for people relocating from London, thanks partly to the city’s five Michelin-starred restaurants.

Mr Faulkner spoke about “encouraging economic conditions” following the recession and said the arrival in Birmingham of HS2 represented a once in a lifetime opportunity for businesses.

He said:

It’s probably not over-stating things to say that the HS2 will bring a generation change to the Midlands. It will fuel new developments at Curzon in the city centre and UK Central outside Solihull, and generally drive new areas for regeneration, housing and business growth across the entire region.

In total it is estimated that it will create over 100,000 new jobs by the time the first trains are running by 2027– with ten per cent of those being earmarked for local residents who are currently unemployed – and add about £14bn a year to the regional economy.

He was encouraged by Birmingham’s fast growing economy:

The regional economy is worth £110 billion and growing,  and is home to the largest concentration of businesses outside of London as well as the greatest number of start-ups outside of the capital, with over 18,000 new businesses starting in Birmingham alone last year.

We lead the country in export growth, with 100 per cent between 2009 and 2014 – mainly thanks to Jaguar Land Rover but not solely due to them – and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP has created over 85,000 new jobs in the area in the last five years, well ahead of targets.

Unemployment is still higher than the national average, at six per cent for the West Midlands, but the gap has closed in recent years, and is trending in the right direction.

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