In our continuing series on city regions, Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks at the near-misses in bringing iconic projects to the West Midlands...
City region status will put Birmingham and the West Midlands in a stronger position when bidding for major regeneration projects.
Speaking with a united voice and representing the views of eight local authorities and the business community, the new body could throw its weight behind a single site for the next must-have scheme.
That, at least, is the theory. In reality, those promoting the city region know that the lessons of history weigh heavily on their shoulders.
The West Midlands has attempted to unite behind big ideas before, with limited success.
The region did submit a single bid for the major Millennium project, backing Birmingham's application for a site near the NEC.
That did not go down well in Coventry, where the city had designs on putting forward its own bid.
The award in any case went to London and the Millennium Dome.
By the time it came to the new national football stadium, the gloves were off.
Birmingham submitted a proposal to the Football Association, again based on land near the NEC, while Coventry promoted its own bid for a stadium in the north of the city.
Solihull Council, which in 1995 had objected to Birmingham's proposal, changed its mind by 2001 when the Government ordered an inquiry into the Wembley Stadium fiasco.
Solihull agreed to support in principle the NEC stadium project, a ground-breaking decision that helped raise the morale of city region supporters.
Both bids lost out to Wembley, but Coventry's proposal eventually emerged in a different guise as the Ricoh Stadium, the new home for Coventry City FC.
Spin forward to 2006 and the competition to find a site for the UK's first super-casino.
Heroic attempts were made by Birmingham to bring all seven West Midlands councils behind a proposal for a casino at, once again, the NEC.
Solihull Council, the planning authority for the NEC, agreed to back the idea. Other West Midlands councils went their own way, notably Dudley which wanted a casino near the Merry Hill Shopping Centre and Coventry, which promoted the Ricoh Stadium as the ideal choice.
The region managed to miss the casino boat in a spectacular way. Not one of the West Midlands proposals managed to find their way on to a shortlist drawn up by the Casino Advisory Panel, although the NEC proposal - now being backed by the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands - is likely to be resubmitted to CAP.
Would things have been handled differently if a Birmingham city region responsible for overseeing economic development and regeneration had existed? Might the West Midlands council leaders have been able to swallow local pride and agree to promote a single bid?
It is difficult to see how rivalries could have been overcome, judging by the response from Coventry.
Peter Walters, head of economic development at CV One, Coventry Council's arms-length company responsible for promoting the city, believes a lack of unity may have cost the West Midlands the super-casino.
Writing in The Birmingham Post, Mr Walters said: "There should have been a single project in the region that everyone could get behind and support. Not in Birmingham, though.
"On this occasion, Coven-try's casino project was years ahead of everyone else's and could have been ready to become the pilot the Government is seeking early next year."
In conclusion, Mr Walters suggested that "instead of bickering" over rival schemes, the powers-that-be should have supported Coventry.
Asked to comment further, Mr Walters said: "It would be great to imagine that a city region would at some point in the future be able to take decisions that avoid problems like the casino affair. But that seems a long way off."
Ken Taylor, leader of Coventry City Council, takes a more optimistic line.
Coun Taylor (Con Earlsdon) said: "I would be pretty hopeful that a city region could unite behind difficult decisions. It is a challenge for all of us, but the whole point of what is being proposed is that the West Midlands can come forward with a unified view on important projects."
Simon Murphy, the former Labour MEP chosen to head-up the city region project, is certain it will be possible to reach agreement on a wide range of regeneration, transport and economic development projects.
However, choosing his words carefully, Mr Murphy conceded that "it may be that some things remain within the remit of individual local authorities because people don't want decisions to be taken at a regional level".
An executive board consisting of the leaders of the eight councils plus representatives from the Learning and Skills Council, AWM, the WMRA and representatives from the business community will head the city region and agree an annual development plan setting out priorities.
"Within that plan it is possible for a whole range of strategic projects to be identified," Mr Murphy said.
He added: "There will be flexibility in the process for things that might need instant decision making.
"The decision-making process will be based on consensus and maximum involvement so that everyone's opinions are taken into account. The intention is to take very large strategic decisions more quickly and to focus better.
"Obviously there are sensitivities and issues to be addressed. That is why there will be a 12-strong executive board."
The city region would really add value on large strategic projects such as New Street Station and the second runway at Birmingham International Airport, according to Mr Murphy.
He believes the image of the West Midlands as a warring nation unable to agree to disagree is unfair.
Some of the biggest schemes have only been able to go ahead as the result of agreement between the various council leaders, notably the Midland Metro tram system and the expansion of BIA.
"The region took the decision to develop the metro - a funding decision that didn't benefit every area immediate-ly. The region can tackle these sorts of issues," Mr Murphy insisted.
However, if the comments of Local Government Minister Phil Woolas in last Thursday's Birmingham Post are anything to go by, a single, strong leader for the West Midlands may be the one tackling those issues rather than a board or committee.
With the carrot of billions of pounds of extra Government money dangled in front of them, the region's district councils may be faced with the decision to put the issue of city regions on the back burner and the thorny subject of an elected mayor at the top.
IN THE POST TOMORROW: Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks at how the rest of Europe handles the situation ..SUPL: