It’s time to deliver results for ‘Greater Birmingham’.
That was Andy Street’s message as he signed up for another three years as chairman of the city’s local enterprise partnership along with the rest of its senior team.
The Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP boss said his focus will now be on creating jobs from HS2 and a major M42 corridor development as well as bridging the region’s skills gap.
The John Lewis managing director will continue his influential role alongside deputy Steve Hollis and Jaguar Land Rover’s Alan Volkaerts, lead board director for skills.
The announcement brings a new stability to the LEP, and Mr Street said after creating a growth plan for the region in recent years it was time to ensure it was delivered.
It comes as a strategic economic plan is being drawn up to submit to government to secure hundreds of millions worth of funding from the Local Growth Fund.
“We have built firm foundations,” said Mr Street. “There is a strategy which everyone is signed up to. The first period was always going to be about getting that done.
“In the second phase we have got to deliver the things in that strategy.
“The whole idea has been to have a mix of strategic, long-term, plans, as well as some local, on-the-ground, things.”
Mr Street said there were four major priorities, including making the most out of the proposed high speed rail line and a centre of engineering excellence linked to it, and the massive ‘UK Central’ development in the M42 corridor near Birmingham Airport.
Elsewhere the city centre enterprise zone and improving the skill profile of the region will also be priorities.
Mr Street added: “It is not about me, and this certainly isn’t a one-man team. Steve Hollis and Alan Volkaerts are doing another three years. I would not have said yes if the quality team we have assembled wasn’t staying around.
“The other reason why a number of us have said yes to a three-year term is that whoever wins the next general election it looks as though LEPs are here to stay.
“And politicians in our area have collaborated, as they said they would, and the local background looks promising. That is quite an achievement that makes this all work.”
Former broadcaster and chair of the Midlands Arts Centre, Anita Bhalla, has also been appointed to the LEP board, replacing Wade Lyn.
Her BBC links will be a key asset. The corporation recently committed to create dozens of jobs through an investment in digital development and training, but the region remains the poor relative when it comes to its BBC spending.
Mr Street said no formal talks about further investment by the BBC were in the pipeline, but conceded there was more ground to be made – including more production.
But he said the wider communications and digital economy in the region were a major part of the growth plans, and Ms Bhalla was a part of that.
He said: “The significance of Anita coming onto the board is because the creative industries are a huge high spot for employment.
“At the moment there are no spaces at the Custard Factory or Fazeley Studios.
“That area is already a successful story, the cultural pieces are also important.
“The dark spot in it was the BBC, but the lesson we have learned is that there is no point in complaining – we have presented to the director general what we could do and in November he said we would be at the centre of their digital world.”
Another issue on the agenda for the LEP is business support, which remains fragmented following the closure of Business Link by the coalition government.
Mr Street added his name to the list calling for concrete promises for Birmingham from HS2, after the Post reported last week that city Labour MP Liam Byrne was keen to see a tangible return for the city offering up a huge swathe of industrial employment land in Washwood Heath.
He said: “Yes, I do. For example, we want to make sure that the HS2 college is based in Birmingham. We have got to win it fairly though.
“We have got to make sure that the HS2 headquarters is based in Birmingham, too.
“We need to see the colour of their money, but also we have to bear in mind Birmingham is the biggest beneficiary of HS2.”
However, Mr Street would still not be drawn over whether the West Midlands should have a regional mayor.
Progress in transport and infrastructure strategies in the region have been made possible by the leaders of local councils working together and it appears that goodwill has become essential.
Despite that, Mr Street stopped short of saying there should be an over-arching authority in the region.
He said: “I am not a politician. It is not for me to comment on that.
“The nine authorities have come together and there is good collaboration between us and surrounding areas.
“Three years ago the idea was that everything would be totally local, but that has proven not to be right.
“If you look at transport, everyone in the area got behind Birmingham Airport and the things done to support the advanced manufacturing area got all the West Midlands together.
“The fact that we are getting people to work together is a breakthrough, as it is not what has happened historically,” he added.