Incoming Birmingham Chamber president Greg Lowson is backing the city’s burgeoning digital and start-up community – with a campaign to retain the best graduate brains.
Mr Lowson, who takes over from current president Tim Pile next month, is using his year of office to bang the drum for the city’s creative sector, with corporate social responsibility (CSR) a key element.
The city lawyer, a leading figure in the creation of CSR City in the region, is targeting education, employment, crime and safety, health and wellbeing and housing as areas of social need.
The initiative aims to unite the numerous CSR initiatives across the public and private sector, with an initial focus on education and improving the delivery of CSR to Birmingham’s most challenged schools.
Mr Lowson said: “We believe Birmingham’s schools, employers and employees will benefit from their needs being co-ordinated.
“We will create a centralised broking house to identify the best ways of delivering CSR City, and in doing so will hopefully achieve improved levels of academic achievement and, through that, higher levels of local employment.
“Providers of CSR should see high levels of employee engagement, increased employee satisfaction and retention rates.
“I have been struck by the number of job candidates who are demanding to know what their potential employers provide in terms of CSR activities. Employers have to provide these opportunities in order to recruit the best candidates.
“I’m also very keen to promote the creative sector in the city, particularly in the digital sphere, and CSR can help. Around two-thirds of new businesses fail in the first two years and I want to ensure that start-ups are helped in their incubator period through CSR.
“Greater Birmingham is already home to a significant slice of the UK’s tech start-up community.
“More than 6,000 technology companies, including a fifth of the world-renowned British computer gaming sector, are based in the Greater Birmingham area, generating £1.6bn for the local economy.
“Digbeth is at the heart of the new media start-up community and it is where Asos chose to site its development centre – its first base outside London.
“About 40,000 local students graduate each year with computer science or business degrees from the city’s three universities and it is important that we hold on to many of them.
“There is also the promise of infrastructure investment, not least the high speed rail link HS2 and the Rail College that could be based in the city.
“This growing sector in the city could benefit hugely from CSR and I aim to encourage businesses to get involved because their own staff will become more motivated. Also, surveys have shown that a good CSR programme improves staff retention rates.”
Mr Lowson will be on the initial board of CSR City and other members include Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, Anita Bhalla, board member of the Greater
Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham; David Richardson representing BITC; Nick Venning representing Thrive; Alastair Falk, CEO of Birmingham Education Partnership; David Urquhart, the Bishop of Birmingham; David Cragg representing the Skills Show and Michael Shepherd, Chair of BPS.
The incoming president qualified as a lawyer in 1984 and has been a partner with Pinsent Masons LLP for 23 years.
His external appointments include Under Sheriff of the West Midlands, CBI regional council member, vice-chairman of Mac, trustee of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, director of Cure Leukaemia and member of Wesleyan for Lawyers’ Advisory Board.