Ian Taylor, venue sales director for conventions and exhibitions at the NEC Group, on the changes taking place in the Midlands.
I’m not actually a native of Birmingham – a Geordie in the Midlands, it’s my adopted city and has been my home for the last 15 years. I can honestly say that I believe that no city has a brighter future or can offer business more opportunities.
Birmingham’s economy is the fastest growing of any city region in the UK and is playing a lead role in driving the economic performance of UK plc. Business is core to our success and is helping the city redefine what is possible at the heart of urban Britain economically, socially and culturally.
During 2017, some 140 Foreign Direct Investment projects created 10,600 jobs in the Birmingham region. New arrivals include HSBC – who’ve relocated their headquarters to Centenary Square – and HM Revenue & Customs, who will soon be moving some 3200 staff into Arena Central just down the road from the ICC.
The mix of nationalities and communities within the city creates a thriving, arts and culture scene, an incredibly varied food and drink offering and a genuinely international vibe. It’s this relentless appetite for change and youthful energy that’s helped us secure the Commonwealth Games 2022, giving us another opportunity to show a confident, aspirational and welcoming face to the rest of the world.
In the next two – three years we’ll see the further development of Paradise and Arena Central, as well as the completion of the refurbished Grand Hotel and the new Centenary Square. The expansion of our metro system will also continue, with the line extension from Grand Central to the Westside of the city.
Of course, looking slightly further ahead, one of Europe’s largest mixed-use regeneration schemes, Birmingham Smithfield, is now underway, whilst HS2 will connect Birmingham (and the NEC) to London in just 38 minutes by 2026.
So, it’s clear we have genuine momentum in Birmingham. However, I think it’s fair to say that in virtually every market and sector businesses are currently facing challenges, economic headwinds and an almost unprecedented degree of uncertainty.
Against that backdrop, I think the need to keep innovating, remain market facing, ensure we understand what’s happening in the world and the focus on creating opportunities to grow business has never been greater.
It’s clear we live in an increasingly digital and connected world and the pressures that places on us as businesses and individuals. The speed at which we all now operate is ever quicker – so arguably the importance of human connection – face to face interaction and the need for people to come together in high quality environments – has never been greater.
And that’s why Birmingham is a destination of choice. It’s fair to say organisers could choose London, Manchester or any number of cities to host their event – but Birmingham is booming and provides ample opportunity for growth.
I believe Birmingham is transforming at a rate of knots that no other city can match, with record investment levels helping to drive economic success and new levels of pride and confidence. A desire to innovate runs through this city, which helps makes us an amazing place to build a business, develop an event or even just spend some time in.
But most importantly, I believe that the continued success and future of this city is even brighter, and a place I hope to stay for another 15 years or more!