Seven hundred delegates from across the West Midlands will converge on the ICC in Birmingham today to debate the future for the West Midlands economy.
Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands fourth annual conference - with the theme 'Working As One' - will mark the beginning of the biggest consultation ever to take place in the West Midlands.
Over the coming months events will be held at venues across the West Midlands as the region debates how to improve skills levels, transport, support for business and tackling the problems in disadvantaged communities.
The ideas and solutions generated will make up the new West Midlands Economic Strategy, which will be published next autumn.
Advantage West Midlands is leading the debate and in his conference speech AWM chairman Nick Paul will call for the creation of 'Team West Midlands' to develop new ideas and work together to transform the West Midlands economy.
Delegates at today's event include 33 local authorities, 19 colleges, universities and research facilities, business organisations including the CBI, Chambers of Commerce and EEF, many of the region's l eading businesses,
Government departments and a host of other organisations delivering the current economic strategy.
All will take part during the day in debating the central issues of transport, skills, enterprise, innovation, manuf acturing and economic inclusion.
The consultation exercise will conclude in spring next year and the findings will be used to publish an updated West Midlands Economic Strategy which, from Autumn 2007, will be the West Midlands region's plan of action for improving its economic performance up to the year 2020.
Mr Paul said: "The West Midlands is facing some serious challenges, from how to cope with global warming, the increasing pace of globalisation, the structural changes in the regional economy to the demographic changes we are facing in the coming years.
"These underlying changes mean we have to work much more closely together across the region building a Team West Midlands ethos.
"This is the single most important thing we can do in the region to improve our performance.
"We all want to increase investment in the region, in everything from transport infrastructure, to housing, from increasing skills levels to industrial capacity.
"This can best be achieved when we all know what each of us can contribute to winning that vital investment."
John Edwards, chief executive of AWM, added: "The West Midlands receives £10 billion a year to improve our economic performance. We want every local authority, every business and every community to have their say on what that money should be spent on in the future."
A conference report will appear in tomorrow's Birmingham Post.