A £290 million Government agency set up to support West Midlands businesses has received a vote of confidence from Ministers after less than a year under new leadership.
The Department for Business and Enterprise said Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, had met all its targets and helped 6,000 people find work in the region over the past year.
The results are a boost for Mick Laverty, who took over as chief executive last December.
Advantage West Midlands faces an uncertain future as the Conservatives are in the middle of a review of regional policy which could see the development agencies scrapped or replaced with smaller bodies, if the Tories win a general election.
In particular, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Duncan is concerned that regional development agencies cover areas which are too large and do not correspond with areas of economic activity.
Advantage West Midlands is responsible for the entire West Midlands region, including shire counties such as Staffordshire and Worcestershire as well as Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country.
According to figures published by the Government, the agency has created or “safeguarded” 17,622 jobs in the West Midlands over the past year.
It also helped 6,000 people to get a job, and helped 1,307 new business get started.
The figure only includes firms which were still running after a year.
The agency helped 12,240 firms to improve their performance, and 21,630 people to improve their skills.
It met targets set by the Government in every category it is assessed on.
Advantage West Midlands also published its annual report, in which it said key successes during 2007-2008 included providing £100 million towards the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street.
It also helped secure record levels of inward investment for the region which saw 2,846 jobs created and 469 safeguarded, the agency said.
Business Minister Pat McFadden said: “At a time of economic uncertainty it is more important than ever that we have strong RDAs supporting business, fostering economic development and helping to create and safeguard jobs in their region.
“This report shows that Advantage West Midlands is doing well.
“It demonstrates it is meeting its targets.”
Mr Laverty said: “These results are a tribute to the hard work of staff and the many partners who work with us to deliver economic development and regeneration.”
He added: “I am very proud that working together as a region, we have delivered on jobs and for business and communities.
“The launch of the West Midlands Economic Strategy late last year has put us in an excellent position.
“We now want to push on and deliver the performance required to close our region’s £10 billion output gap.”
But a note of caution was sounded by Staffordshire MP David Kidney (Lab Stafford), who warned that AWM focused too much on Birmingham and other urban areas, despite improving in recent years.
He said: “I have been critical in the past about the level of professionalism and commitment shown by Advantage West Midlands.
“I think the situation has improved but the agency is still too urban-centric and does not give enough attention to the rest of the region.”
The agency is set to become more powerful as it takes over responsibility for planning, after the Government announced plans to abolish the regional assembly, the existing authority.