With the automotive sector on the brink of extinction in Britain, there has never been a better time to remind ourselves of the role that major cities play in the nation’s economy.
Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry drive prosperity across the West Midlands region, and across Britain as a whole.
They are not alone, of course. But while London’s dominant role in the nation’s economy is never forgotten, the considerable role of other major cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds, and, most of all, Birmingham, is acknowledged far less.
However, Birmingham and the surrounding conurbation – what might be called the Birmingham City Region – does drive prosperity within the wider West Midlands region, including in the shire counties which sometimes feel neglected.
It’s easy to take this for granted.
But the terrible prospect of thousands of job losses if Jaguar Land Rover closes its doors highlights the importance of the jobs that currently exist and the value they bring to the economy.
Ministers say they stand ready to help firms, and we must hope they mean it.
If the business is viable in normal circumstances, which it certainly appears to be, then government must act to ensure a temporary crisis in the banking system doesn’t force it to close.
It is reasonable for counties to fight for a fair share of government funding and attention from local agencies.
They may very often have a point, and there has been a widespread perception that Advantage West Midlands, the development agency in our region, knows a lot more about inner city regeneration than about helping rural economies – a claim the agency would deny, but one which is heard frequently.
But Pat McFadden, the business minister, is nonetheless right when he says that successful cities create successful regions.
It’s not a “zero-sum” game, as he put it – anything which helps Birmingham succeed is also good for the surrounding region.
There has been a lot of debate about the structures needed to help regional economies – perhaps too much debate, many people might say.
But this has been inevitable, because the system initially created by the current government was designed to become a fully-fledged regional administration, complete with its own local parliament.
As this plan has been abandoned, changes are clearly needed.
The difficulty is that it has taken ten years for ministers to decide what they should be.