Businesses would be forgiven for treading a cautionary path at the moment, but in true British spirit it appears that recent events have actually galvanised businesses, and no more so than in the Midlands.
This was certainly the refreshing view of both Carolyn Fairbairn – CBI director-general – and re-elected Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Greg Clark MP, keynote speakers at the recent CBI West Midlands Annual Dinner.
Addressing over 300 of the region’s most influential business leaders, the message was clear – businesses are just getting on with it and in the West Midlands ‘manufacturing is on the march’.
The recent investment in I54 and The London Taxi Company’s commitment to Coventry with its new production of electric black cabs are just two standout examples.
According to Clark, Birmingham is at its strongest when it is being innovative which has led it to being one of the most-forward thinking cities when it comes to export, only second to London.
This reputation is also recognised in the region’s research and development capabilities.
Its wealth of collaborative universities and intel has led the West Midlands to fast becoming known as the ‘go-to region’ for battery-powered vehicles, well on the way to developing a world-class reputation in this field, aligning perfectly with the government’s proposed Industrial Strategy.
Business success defines our cities and I am pleased to see and hear West Midland-based businesses want to trade more with its EU counterparts. The key now is how to maintain momentum and more to the point, speed it up.
This view was backed by Fairbairn, who has always been vocal on how business needs to be an active part of Brexit negotiations.
Ensuring regional equality and access to the right skills and labour need to continue, as well as non-tariff barriers and robust transition arrangements. Businesses can play a key role in these negotiations, and the Midlands is ready to play its part.
With one of just six elected-mayors in the country, the future of the Midlands is in our hands. At its best, devolution leads to a greater focus on local growth plans and the local economy, but it will be Andy Street’s role as mayor to drive change.
Fairbairn believes the region is fertile for growth, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Improved infrastructure and the development of HS2 will make Birmingham an ever greater location for start-ups.
The future is certainly bright for West Midland businesses, but we will all need to work closely with the new mayor, CBI and other organisations to create a single voice which continues to drive and sustain change.