Sir Roy McNulty, the newly-appointed chairman of the West Midlands’ regional development agency, last night said he had “no instant answers” to the challenges facing the region.
His comments came as the 13-month process to find the new chairman of Advantage West Midlands (AWM) finally drew to a close with the announcement that the head of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will take the helm of the organisation tasked with supporting businesses in the region.
Sir Roy, who is due to step down from his position as chairman of the CAA in August, will take on the role of AWM chairman designate in June. He will shadow the current holder, Nick Paul, for three months to ensure a smooth handover before taking up the full three-year position on 1st September.
The announcement was made yesterday by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson. He said: “Sir Roy’s experience in business will be vital as AWM takes a lead role in steering the West Midlands economy through this difficult period.”
The £80,000-a-year three-day-a-week position will see Sir Roy, who has a background in aerospace, take charge of AWM at a time when businesses in the region are experiencing one of the toughest economic climates in many years.
Sir Roy said the first thing he intended to do in the role was familiarise himself with the challenges facing businesses in the West Midlands. He highlighted the banking and credit situation as the biggest difficulty at the moment.
He said: “I have a lot of familiarisation to do as anybody would coming into a job as challenging as this.
“My long-term vision remains the same as before - the same as set out in AWM strategy.
“There is no doubt that we have some enormous challenges and we need to deal with them as soon as we can.”
Sir Roy, who is originally from County Donegal, Ireland, said he had the right credentials for the West Midlands job thanks to his background in the manufacturing industry and experience working in organisations similar to AWM.
He has been chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority since 2001, and is also deputy chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and chair of ILEX URC, the urban regeneration company for Derry-Londonderry.
His previous roles include leading Shorts Group, the European counterpart of Bombardier’s North American Aerospace Group following its privatisation in 1989.
Sir Roy stressed he could offer no instant solutions to the region’s ailing automotive sector, which has been hit hard by the downturn in demand in the global car industry.
“I’m not coming in with a set of instant answers - there are no easy answers to these challenges,” he said.
Ian Austin MP, Minister for the West Midlands region, said there was a huge amount of work lying ahead.
“The recession may have been caused in the US, but it’s having a real impact here in the West Midlands and Advantage West Midland’s work has never been more important as we provide real help for families in the region and the businesses on whom they depend for jobs,” he said.
Sir Roy was initially among the favourites for the role when it was announced last January, but pulled out due to his work commitments at the time, mainly with the CAA.
He succeeds Nick Paul, who took over as chairman of Advantage West Midlands at the end of 2002.
Sir Roy’s appointment was welcomed by the James Watkins, executive chairman of the West Midlands Business Council.
He said: “As the current deputy chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and with his regeneration connections in Northern Ireland, Sir Roy understands how business works.
“The challenges he has faced in his business career are the sort of challenges the West Midlands is facing in these current economic times.
“We are confident we can work positively with Sir Roy to bring full business confidence back to the region.”
Sir Roy’s appointment comes as a shadow hangs over the future of Advantage West Midlands, prompted by David Cameron’s announcement earlier this month that a Conservative government would remove power from regional development agencies and hand money to councils instead to spend on local businesses as they see fit.