October has been a big month for Curium Solutions. Yesterday we officially opened the doors of our new office with a launch party and we’ve been honoured to meet some of the region’s biggest influencers to get their views on Birmingham.
In my last blog I talked about why I see the Midlands as a genuinely exciting place to be. But for those of you who weren’t at our office launch I want to share the views of three prominent business figures who gave up their time to ‘talk Birmingham’ with us – Andy Street, West Midlands Mayoral candidate and John Lewis CEO, Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport CEO, Marketing Birmingham Chairman and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce President, and Simon Jack, BBC Business Editor.
- The region is starting a ‘golden decade’
Paul Kehoe explained that between 2016 and 2026 we’ll see a new dawn for Birmingham. “This is a great place for young people to come to. It’s Europe’s youngest city, it’s vibrant, it’s alive… and there is a confidence in Birmingham. From now until 2026, when we’ll see the opening of HS2, which will effectively change the economic geography of the UK: this is Birmingham’s time.”
- Attracting and retaining talent to the city is our biggest challenge
Andy Street told me that the region is attracting big businesses like HSBC because they’re confident they can recruit the skills and talent they need to succeed. But he cautioned that, while we’ll boost the region if we continue to invest in and improve our talent pool, we’ll limit ourselves if we’re not careful. In his words, “the single biggest issue is to make sure that everyone can maximise their talents so they can contribute to the economy.”
Paul Kehoe echoed this, telling me that while the region’s universities are producing great quality graduates the challenge is to make sure they want to stay here: “I think if we can create a successful environment and opportunity for these people – people attract people and if you see a virtual spiral of success happening, you’ll attract more people to come in.”
- Big businesses make the headlines but small businesses are the economic lifeblood
HS2, HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover are the ones that make the news, but it’s the small businesses that create new jobs and underpin economic growth. Allow me a humble boast here – Andy Street said that what the region needs is thousands more Curiums to help it succeed: “Let me take your story… you told me you were launched on the back of the Lehman Brother’s collapse… how brave is that! The fact that you’re investing, you’re opening new offices and recruiting people… we want thousands of those stories as that’s what will really drive the strength of the economy.”
- The Midlands is firmly on the government’s agenda
Manchester has been the regional darling for the last decade, but the government is now turning its attention to Birmingham. The BBC’s @SimonJack said the paper on the Midlands Engine, from previous Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, was clear evidence of this and said we can expect more focus on the region in the upcoming Autumn statement (more on that nearer the time).
- Digital is the hot topic for regional businesses
We asked Andy Street for his top tip for success and he said it was all about maximising digital. Whatever the industry – utilities, communications, financial services – being at the cutting-edge of digitisation will be key to creating cut-through for customers.
A big thank you to all those who came to our launch event, and an even bigger thanks to Paul Kehoe, Andy Street and Simon Jack – big names who support small businesses like ours.