Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse are phrases that have been used by politicians in recent years to describe a commitment to building economic and industrial power in areas of the UK outside of London.
The 2016 Conservative Party Conference saw the Chancellor Philip Hammond state his backing for his predecessor’s visions of the Midlands Powerhouse, aiming to invest in job creation in the region.
Birmingham’s industrial progress has not caught the headlines in the way that Greater Manchester has in the last 5 years, so what opportunities are out there for the development of England’s second city?
Large parts of our country feel left behind. They see the country getting richer, but don’t feel part of that success.
Philip Hammond, Chancellor
In the five years up to 2014 London’s economic growth (measured as Gross Value Added), was 28.9%. The East Midlands and West Midlands averaged 21% growth, equivalent to the percentage growth for England as a whole.
Criticisms of the business landscape in England and Great Britain suggest that London’s exponential wealth creation is at the expense of other regions.
An increase in skills and job creation in the heart of the country would require a significant collaborative effort from a multitude of organisational sectors. A group of seven universities have this week formed a partnership to strengthen local innovation. Midlands Enterprise Universities, including Birmingham City University and Leicester’s De Montfort University pledge to help accelerate wealth creation in the Midlands.
The Midlands Engine vision also has a more literal element to it, with the government’s £12m funding boost aiming to improve rail and road journey times. A key part in a thriving economy is a functional transport system. HS2 has its critics but regional cities of the UK need to compete with London’s excellent transport network.
Currently, the Midlands is home to a variety of industries from carpets to cars, but logistics is one business area with which the likes of London can’t compete. Its central location, relative availability and low cost of space and proximity to key rail and motorway networks make the Midlands an ideal place for a supply chain operation.
The future is unclear for the Midlands Engine, but the fact that a concerted effort is being made to level out the geographical bias enjoyed by commerce in London is promising.