Birmingham lacks ambition and needs to get its act together, Lord Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group has warned.
The Government adviser and influential industrial expert (pictured) says the city should be "aspiring to be the best".
But he warns: "We seem to lack the killer punch."
He blames the region's woes on lack of leadership, poor transport infrastructure, too few iconic buildings, low skill levels and marketing weakness.
In a special interview with The Birmingham Post, he warned: "We have to get away from petty politics.
"We must be more ambitious. We are not aiming high enough. If that requires an international ambassador like Sir Digby Jones or whoever, then we should go for it.
"Our MPs need to fight for the region - fight for us to be above mediocrity.
"We should be brave and bold, prepared to take risks. We have to change gear.
"We need to move fast - not be scared, not get bogged down. But we just don't get our act together."
Lord Bhattacharyya said Birmingham and the region had much to be proud of, yet London saw it negatively as a city of rigged election polls and the shambles of Rover.
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Birmingham Forward, which represents the professions, says it is determined to do something about the skills issue, with a renewed push to keep Birmingham graduates in Birmingham.
New chairman Diane Benussi, a leading divorce lawyer, told the lobby group's agm held at the Burlington Hotel last night there should be a sector-wide open day to enthuse top talent.
She said: "I was a Birmingham graduate, who had no idea there was a professional quarter of the city of Birmingham.
"I want the people that are studying at Birmingham, Aston, UCE, Wolverhampton and the University of Warwick to have a vision of what our professional quarter looks like.
"I want to help to organise the firms of Birmingham into having a city wide open day.
"I want the professional quarter to be clearly identified. I want the open house to be extended from the pavement so people can walk around and walk in and see the glamorous offices, the character buildings and the other places around.
"I want our graduates to think Birmingham. I want them to have an accurate mental picture of what it would be like to be working in the city of Birmingham."
Ms Benussi said more than 100,000 people now worked in the financial and professional sector in Birmingham.
"This number is only going to go one way - up," she declared "More and more people are coming into our sector.
"The calibre of the work being undertaken here in Birmingham is superb."
Ms Benussi recalled how American-born business-woman Barbara Cassani once described using Birmingham firms for her legal work as getting "London advice without the attitude".
Ms Benussi went on: "That comment has stayed with me. It is an accolade to this city and to the way in which the professional community works. We are a community, that is probably our unique selling point. Within the city there is a camaraderie, friendship and unity of purpose.
"I know that same camaraderie does not exist in other cities.
"The professionals in Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester would all give their right arm to have the kind of business community supporting them that we have in Birmingham."