Andy Street, the head of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, told business leaders in the borough that it forms “a critical part” of the LEP’s work

Speaking at a Solihull Business Improvement District business breakfast Mr Street praised the Solihull business community for helping to put the town in the top three places in the UK to run a business.

Additionally he stressed that Solihull formed a critical part of the work the LEP is doing to boost enterprise and jobs in the region.

Mr Street, who is managing director of John Lewis, also reassured more than 100 Solihull businesses that the arrival of a new store next year in central Birmingham was more of an opportunity than a threat – and he hoped that by the end of 2013 there would be news of a “multimillion pound investment” in the Solihull store to ensure it remains one of John Lewis’ top performing stores.

He reaffirmed John Lewis’ commitment to the Solihull store which he said was central to the local and regional community, with the new store at New Street focusing more on visitors coming from farther afield to shop in the largest retail centre in England outside of London’s West End.

In a lively question and answer session Mr Street spoke with optimism about the region’s economic potential, confirming that inward investment growth in the LEP area grew by 40 per cent in 2012, against a national figure of -2 per cent.

He also said the announcement of 21,000 new apprenticeships created by businesses in the region last year represented the best performance for more than 30 years.

Mr Street concluded his presentation by pointing to the LEP’s pivotal role as a national pilot area for the Heseltine Report, supported by the Government, saying it represented “tremendous opportunities” for businesses both large and small.

Shirley Sturzaker, Solihull BID director said: “It is important for Solihull businesses to hear, first-hand, how important the town is to the region’s economy – and also the long-term commitment of John Lewis to Solihull.

“From the nature of discussions after the event the businesses were energised by Andy’s positivity and vision.”