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Mr Javid explains Midlands Engine, Greater Birmingham mayor and LEPs to the Americans

Mr Javid explains Midlands Engine, Greater Birmingham mayor and LEPs to the Americans

🕔22.Sep 2016

Given that England and America are two nations divided by a common language, few would relish Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s task of explaining to an audience of US business executives some political developments that even most Brits don’t fully understand.

During an address in the Midwest city of Illinois, Mr Javid attempted to shed light on the Midlands Engine, local enterprise partnerships, and even the Greater Birmingham metro mayor.

Heading up a delegation of Midland business representatives including Birmingham Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner, the Local Government & Communities Secretary’s message was of a Britain still open for business despite Brexit.

But he wanted to get away from the notion that trade between Britain and America had to be chiefly concentrated on the US east and west coasts.

He sought to draw attention to the similarities of the English Midlands and the American Midwest – essentially, that no one really knows anything much about either region.

Or as Mr Javid put it, the Midlands is excellent at not promoting itself very well.

He told his audience:

Now, I appreciate that you might not know a great deal about the English Midlands.

Compared to the likes of London and Edinburgh, the area is not well known internationally.

But for a part of the world that sometimes hides its light under a bushel, it has certainly made quite an impact on the world stage.

The Midlands is the home of William Shakespeare, of Charles Darwin, of Isaac Newton.

The plane that flew me to Chicago was powered by Rolls Royce engines designed and built in the Midlands.

The car that took me to the airport, a Range Rover, was manufactured in the Midlands.

There was even a hat-tip to his political heroine:

And the woman who inspired me to get into politics, Margaret Thatcher?

Well, she was from the Midlands too.

Mr Javid explained the Midlands is “home to more than 11 million people, 25 world-class universities and two major international airports” and has a fast-growing economy worth almost $300 billion a year.

He added:

Since 2010, it’s created more new jobs that the whole of France.

It’s no coincidence that we chose Illinois for our first Midlands overseas trade mission. The Midlands and the Midwest are natural bedfellows.

On the tricky subject of Brexit, Mr Javid said he hadn’t voted for Britain to leave the EU but fully respected the referendum result which the Government would honour.

However, Brexit would bring new trading opportunities as well as threats:

The referendum was only a vote to leave the European Union. It wasn’t a vote to turn our backs on the world. It wasn’t a vote to pull down the shutters on international trade.

Britain is still very much open for business. There is tremendous economic potential right across the UK, and as a government we have a duty to help tap it.

That’s the thinking behind what we call the Midlands Engine. It’s not a marketing campaign or a one-off event. It’s a serious, long-term strategy to make the heart of England greater than the sum of its parts.

To make this vision a reality, central government is investing literally billions of dollars in the Midlands. Roads are being widened, rail links improved. The region’s universities are opening their doors to businesses so that ideas can be shared, tested and brought to market.

And we’re giving the people and businesses of the Midlands a much greater say over how the region is run.

That’s why we’ve created something called Local Enterprise Partnerships , or LEPs. Led by senior figures from private industry, they bring local government together with local businesses to drive economic growth.

The possibilities to flow from LEPs appear almost endless, according to Mr Javid:

They can set priorities for spending, and bid for a share of almost $2 billion of public money.

If a road needs upgrading, the LEP can make it happen. If a new railway station will bring more jobs to an area, the LEP can secure the funds.

If local people need more training to meet the needs of employers, the LEP can organise it. It’s a great way of putting communities in control of their own economic growth.

We’re also bringing power to the people by creating a wave of directly elected mayors.

In the Midlands’ biggest city, Chicago’s twin city of Birmingham, the people will vote for their first-ever mayor next May.

The new mayor, who will represent nearly 3 million people right across the West Midlands, will be responsible for transport, housing, planning and much more besides.

It’s about giving the people and businesses of the Midlands control over their own affairs, their own economic destiny.

This is the time to seize new opportunities. This is the time to forge new partnerships.

And this is the time for the Midlands and the Midwest to come together and show the world that, when it comes to business, the outside might look more exciting – but it’s what’s in the middle that counts.

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