A Birmingham business group has hailed its role in championing the redevelopment of New Street Station as the most important legacy from its first decade in existence.
Birmingham Business Focus is celebrating its 10th anniversary and its chairman Neil Maybury believes the city is a better place thanks to the work of the group.
“I would certainly like to think we have added our weight to the debate,” he said. “We have tried to make a difference and I think we certainly had an influence in the decision process for investing in New Street Station.
"We have added to the debate on the importance of Birmingham Airport, we have had our say on the branding of the city with the development of a Spitfire exhibition and the city’s lawn tennis heritage with the hugely successful recent exhibition at the Barber Institute.
"There has also been a big discussion about diversity and how the wonderful mix of cultures can produce a greater synergy. We need to make sure that there is engagement and that the city’s diversity is its strength, not a source of tension.”
The group was started by Mr Maybury and a number of other business contacts in the city in 2001 out of a sense of frustration and has come a long way with it celebrating its anniversary this week with a gala dinner at the Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston where Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby will be the guest of honour.
“It was my view that there was no real dialogue going on in the city that was questioning what was happening,” he said. “What we wanted was to discuss the issues facing the city.
"There were plenty of good organisations handing out canapes and exchanging business cards but not much else when it came to actually tackling the issues.
"We got together a few friends – people like Simon Topman, Mike Yaris and Howard Marshall – and discussed the big issue at the time which would you believe it was still New Street Station and there was a real anger and frustration that nothing was getting done.
"We then started talking about other issues and there was a real outpouring at that first meeting and we just went from there.
“The initial strategy was to set our agenda of issues that needed to be looked at and then debate these issues and then convey these views to the decision makers, be it here or in London or wherever and over the years we have built up extremely strong relationships with the city council, AWM and the local MPs - in fact at one event we had eight local MPs all in the same room which I think is a record.”
While the former Pinsent partner who now consults at Artis Legal is satisfied that the group has played its part in a decade worth of improvements to the city, he is clear that there is lots more that needs to be done with HS2 the project with the biggest potential to transform the city’s future.
He also said that the city needed to take advantage of its major development opportunities which would shape the city for generations.
He said: “At Paradise Circus we must get something really special – what we don’t need is another big supermarket island with a few flats on it. We have really pushed the boat out with the new library and I have to say it is growing on me and really is what this city needs.
He said there were still some easy wins that could help transform the city centre and some of the city’s most famous landmarks.
He said: “It doesn’t cost much to plant trees and light up buildings as well as Spaghetti Junction and the Aston Expressway which may be a fine piece of highways engineering but doesn’t look great.
"The right lighting could really create a wow factor and help change perceptions in a stroke.”