West Midlands firms have been slow off the starting block to claim a share of the £3.2 billion of opportunities for 2012 Olympics contracts.
New research has found that nearly three quarters of companies in the region have not even considered the business opportunities around the Games, despite the best efforts of local business groups.
The research, carried out by Lloyds TSB, found that businesses misunderstood the possibilities of the Olympics:
* About a quarter of businesses in the region felt it was too early to look into Olympic opportunities, despite the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) already putting out contracts worth £1 billion.
* Another quarter said they didn’t feel their business was large enough to compete, even though the vast majority of contracts already won have been given to small and medium-sized businesses.
* And a final 23 per cent said they had not looked into it because they thought the contracts would be given to companies in London. In fact around half already issued have been won by businesses outside London.
Many said they had not had enough advice or guidance on how to approach the ODA to find out about contracts.
Andrew Connors, the head of Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets in the West Midlands, said this 'economic blind spot’ could be damaging to the region’s economy if businesses did not take full advantage of the Olympics.
He said: "The London 2012 Games offers one of the biggest business opportunities this country has seen in 50 years.
"Regardless of industry, it provides a golden opportunity for West Midlands businesses to expand, diversify and reach new audiences. Although the opening ceremony is four years away, we urge businesses to take action now in order to grab a piece of the pie."
But despite the fact that most of them had not even looked into the business contracts surrounding the event, many local business owners were still upbeat about the economic impact of the Games on the West Midlands.
Nearly 40 per cent said they thought the event would have a positive impact on the region’s economy, with almost as many saying they were expecting to see a boost in their own business’ turnover. The West Midlands has already seen announcements on Olympic activity expected to bring money into the region.
The US track and field team are expected to be based in the city, using Birmingham University as an acclimatisation venue prior to the Games, and several locations in the West Midlands have been shortlisted to host various events including the Alexander Stadium and Harper Adams University College.
In each case, well-prepared local businesses will have the opportunity to benefit, Lloyds TSB said.
The bank – which is a sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games – published a business guide yesterday showing SMEs how to get involved with Olympics work.
It offers advice on how to get 'fit to supply’, explaining every aspect of the supply chain, including the procurement policies involved. It also covers useful sources of support such as the London 2012 Business Network as well as practical financial advice.
Lloyds TSB Commercial regional director John Robson said: "As the official banking and insurance partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Lloyds TSB is well placed to provide detailed advice on how to capitalise on the opportunities."
And he was supported by former Olympic athlete Lord Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Committee, who outlined the massive amounts that could be available for British companies who act quickly.
He said: "With over £6 billion of contracts available, businesses need to act now to make the most of the opportunities available between now and 2012.
"London 2012 is already providing an opportunity for businesses throughout the UK to raise their profile and reputation on the global stage, and the amount of big sporting events coming to the UK could make this a 'golden decade’ for major events in the UK and, therefore, British business.
"Delivering the Games is a massive logistical operation, requiring goods and services from a large number of firms. Businesses the length and breadth of the country will win contracts and gain a huge amount of experience of what it takes to stage and host big sporting events. This will lead to a new 'export market’ for the UK, thus benefiting businesses right through to 2012 and beyond."