Birmingham became famous as the “city of a thousand trades”, and today no-one can doubt that the creativity and commercial energy of this great city is powering up again.
Today, there are examples of that new business confidence all over. The new HQ for HSBC, creating 1,000 jobs here; the half a billion-pound regeneration of Paradise Circus, which we’ve backed by awarding it Enterprise Zone status; the Grand Hotel on Colmore Row – shuttered for so long, now being restored to its former glories as a five-star hotel.
Once again this city is showing it can excel at a thousand different things, from high tech firms like Advanced Computer Software creating hundreds of jobs, to high-end manufacturing firms like Hydraforce opening their new factory over in Aston.
But there is still so much more we need to do to build an economy that works for everyone, not just a privileged few. There is still so much untapped potential here, and right across the Midlands. The government I lead will help you unleash that potential and together we will make the Midlands – from Lincolnshire to Shropshire - a powerful engine for growth.
Here’s our plan to build that Midlands Engine and create more good jobs for people here in Birmingham and beyond.
It starts with ensuring the Midlands takes full advantage of its position at the crossroads of this country, so we can attract more investment. That means major projects like HS2, which will put the Midlands at the heart of a modern transport network. It means £1.8 billion of upgrades to the road network to cut congestion, including upgrades to the M5, M6, and M42, and the creation of 145 miles of smart motorways radiating out of Birmingham. But it also means better connections within the city – that’s why we have invested to help extend the Metro out to Edgbaston. To bring it all together we’ve funded a new body, Midlands Connect, to drive forward better transport across the region.
We need to back innovation here – to support our great universities to turn their discoveries into business, and get behind Midlands entrepreneurs. That’s why we’re investing £60 million in the exciting work of Birmingham, Aston and four other universities on the Energy Research accelerator, which will help make the Midlands a centre for new energy technologies. It's why we’re investing in things like the STEAMhouse centre in Digbeth, which will help clusters of creative businesses grow.
The Midlands is Britain’s industrial heartland, with world leading firms like Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and many others. We’re already supporting the auto and aerospace industries with major investments in innovative technologies to stay at the cutting edge, but now we will go further. The government is building a proper industrial strategy, and supporting the strengths of the Midlands will play a key part in that.
When I was campaigning to become Conservative Leader, it was to this city that I came to set out my vision. And a key part of that vision is giving people more control over their lives. That starts by devolving powers to the West Midlands and giving you a powerful new voice by creating an elected mayor next May. That means you will have more involvement in the decisions that affect your life like transport, housing, investment in skills, and help for people to find work.
So that’s the plan for the Midlands Engine: major investments to put this region at the centre of a modern transport network; backing for great science and innovators; plus a strong industrial strategy and devolution of power to people here.
But this vision can’t be realised by the government alone, so it’s great that the internationally recognised businessman Sir John Peace has agreed to chair the Midlands Engine to bring together local councils, universities and business leaders.
The region is already showing what can be done when we all work together. Businesses and local authorities in the Local Enterprise Partnership - led by Andy Street, the Managing Director of John Lewis - have come together with government support to create a brilliant new project that’s helping place unemployed people in work placements and jobs. They’ve already helped more than 15,000 people. This adds to the success of the 82,000 private sector jobs created in the area since 2010.
We’re at the start of an exciting time for Birmingham and the whole of the Midlands. The hard work and creativity of people here is helping to build the Midlands Engine - and I can promise that the government I lead will back you all the way.