Birmingham is looking to build on the government’s changing perception of the city.
That was the pledge from council leader John Clancy speaking at an event marking Birmingham’s award as “Most Enterprising Place in Britain” in the 2016 Enterprising Britain Awards.
Held at Zen Metro, the event was sponsored by the Midlands office of national audit, tax and advisory firm, Crowe Clark Whitehill.
Councillor Clancy said he had detected a different approach since Theresa May had taken over as Prime Minister from David Cameron – city leaders have long felt Whitehall has been less than helpful to its aspirations and needs.
He noted: “We have a can-do attitude in the context of Brexit and the way we work together, both civic leaders and business – keeping our eyes on the future and the opportunities that are there for this great city once again.
“We have found recently, perhaps with the change of premiership, that there has been a change in attitude towards Birmingham. That is very welcome. I think there is some recognition – in Number 10 in particular – of the importance and potential of Birmingham, the Midlands and the Midlands Engine.
“Obviously, we intend to build on that support to push for real devolution to the city and the city region to give us the financial powers to truly drive the West Midlands to its full potential.”
Commenting that he was looking to the government to respond positively, especially given the recent launch of a new Industrial Strategy, Councillor Clancy said: “It is up to us to lead the UK – we will make sure that Birmingham is at the heart of this Strategy.”
The target for the city was to create a high skilled, high productivity, export economy.
Addressing an invited audience of business leaders and professionals, Councillor Clancy added: “This was known as the city of 1,000 trades, this is the city that needs to become the city of 1,000 SME clusters.
“There is a buzz about this city and we have not seen that as much for many years. It is the efforts of businesses in the city, particularly smaller businesses, that are part of creating that buzz and the current level of optimism.”
Johnathan Dudley, Managing Partner at Crowe’s Midlands office, and National Head of Manufacturing, said Birmingham was “fighting back”.
Highlighting the city’s “track record” of invention and innovation, he cited how between 1760 and 1850 there were more patents out of Birmingham than anywhere else in the UK.
Birmingham had spawned the postage stamp, HP Sauce, Cadbury’s chocolate, Birds Custard, Lloyds Bank, and the TSB. It had played a major role in the development of the atom bomb and lay claim to the spinning machine despite this being widely regarded as the work of the North West.
The 1970s may have seen the West Midlands go into something of a decline but that had been turned around over the last five years of development.
He pledged: “We should be proud of ourselves in the city region. We can do this.”
Birmingham City Council’s Business Support Package has helped back 1,000 businesses, generating £87 million in private sector investment and creating or safeguarding 4,300 jobs, as part of the ambitious plans to build a Midlands Engine for Growth.