We have found from the  Birmingham MadeMe Design Expo  that there is so much to celebrate produced in Birmingham and the Midlands.

If you came to the Design Expo at  Millennium Point  in June you will have seen many great, global brands. They are made in the Midlands by thousands of people living and working here.

It is through their skills and endeavours, their passion and pride in what they do, that the lives of people around the world are being transformed.

Birmingham - the Original Design City
Our region has a unique history - a track record - in transformation. We changed the world and continue to do so. We did it uniquely by harnessing the power of science, technology, art and design.

It was at Coalbrookdale in 1707 that Abraham Darby first smelted iron ore with coke and obtained a patent to make the first 'mass produced' quality cooking pots, launching the industrial revolution and creating the first brand and production-led consumer products. 

In 1757 John Baskerville designed his revolutionary typeface - simple, elegant and above all clear - changing the way we absorb information, communicate and understand the world.

Matthew Boulton's famous Soho Manufactory was opened in 1766 producing and selling, 'what all the world desires'- an array of quality buttons, buckles, and boxes, japanned ware, luxury products including silverware and ormolu. 

William Murdoch invented gas lighting in 1794 using coal gas which he piped through an old gun barrel, igniting it to produce light, transforming quality of life in our cities.

Sidney Flavel invented the Kitchener, the modern cooker in 1830, a forebear of the iconic  AGA and Rangemaster  cookers made in the region today.

Joseph Hudson invented the first police whistle in 1883. His company,  Acme Whistles,  revolutionized sport with the invention of the first Referee whistle in 1884. They invented the Silent dog whistle in 1935 and the waterproof lifesaving whistle in 1949.

From the legacy bequeathed us by great people like these and Wedgwood, Watt, Darwin, and others,we are able to produce world-beating brands.

Today  Jaguar, Land RoverAston MartinJCBRolls RoyceTriumph  and  Norton MotorcyclesPashley Cycles  and  Brooks England SaddlesAGA, Rangemaster , Fired EarthAmtico  and  VaxEmma Bridgewater,   Churchill China  and  Portmerion in the PotteriesWB the Creative Jewellery GroupJames Newman,  Jack Row  and emerging designer makers in  Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter , together with a growing digital and creative quarter at the  Custard Factory  and  Fazeley Studios , are all part of a very special story that makes up our past, informing our present and our future.

But what we found from those visiting the Birmingham MadeMe Design Expo was how little people in general knew about what we design and make, how it has changed the world and continues to do so today.

We need to do more to remind ourselves that Birmingham is the Original Design City. We need to remind ourselves how Birmingham makes Britain Better.... and the rest of the world too.

Reputation
The main problem seems to be one of reputation - or the mismatch between the reality of what we do and the perception.

Perception, is of course, reality - as we all know. So, too often, we think we are not that great. We accept it. Perhaps that's why we do a good line in self-deprecating humour.

It seems clear that we need to know and believe in what we have done and continue to do. It's dramatic, I know, but I think it's about making the case to regain the 'Midlands heart and soul'.

If each succeeding generation fails to imbibe this profoundly defining force within our culture then we fail just as surely as if we had failed to teach them to read and write.

The past is our compass for the future. We look to the rising generations to beat a new path and lead the way, not to meander aimlessly without direction in the hope of arriving.

Reputation in a business goes both inside and outside and a good leader markets both ways. In the best businesses both employees and customers have a profound belief in the cause.

This is what makes for authenticity. It makes us go the extra mile, spark off each other, build on bright ideas, ignite our creativity.

Professor Mike Brown at Birmingham City Business School reckons that for most businesses reputation is the single most important asset.

In his annual survey of Britain's Most Admired Companies he asks senior executives to rank their peers and their businesses according to how they see that company's reputation, product and brand reputation, know-how, overall quality, goodwill and networks.

He and other business people know that without excellent reputation you can't get the best people to work for you. And as people in business always say, 'People are our greatest asset'.

So too for regions. This intangible thing, our reputation, is in fact our biggest and most precious asset. Not just when we are marketing ourselves to foreign investors or visitors.

But in the way we speak to ourselves, about ourselves.

Cities and regions are like business. The most successful regions are those with the best talent. In the USA they have found that places where most talent is gathered (measured by degrees / post graduate degrees with 'employability' at their core), are those with the best economic growth - and coincidentally rated as the best places to live and work.

The best businesses rise above local jealousies. They know success depends on producing real outcomes. They know that if they don't they will be wiped out by better organised competitors.

We need to communicate our great and unique tradition of transformation.

This culture is alive and kicking. We need to absorb the case made by Jaguar Land Rover's inspiring renaissance and sell ourselves with pride.

Birmingham is the gateway to the Midlands, a great destination, not a bypass. We are a coming force, not an apology.

* Beverley Nielsen is Director Employer Engagement,  Birmingham City University