Improving the poor image of the West Midlands in Britain and across the world is to be the theme of a high-powered meeting of senior politicians and business leaders.

James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will lead discussions on how to make the region appear more attractive in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The conference has been organised by Liam Byrne, the Birmingham MP and Minister for the West Midlands.

Speaking at Labour’s annual conference in Bournemouth, he said the region had the cultural riches to put a small country to shame. But he was also painfully aware that people outside the region did not always know what it offered, he said.

Mr Byrne said he wanted to ensure the West Midlands made the most of the 2012 Games, when the eyes of the world would be on Britain.

He announced plans for the conference after attending a fringe meeting organised by Black Country Chamber of Commerce to discuss ways of boosting the local economy.

At the meeting, MP Adrian Bailey (Lab West Bromwich West) warned that a "negative perception" of the Black Country was undermining industry in the region.

He said: "Every day of the week, hundreds of thousands of people travel through the Black Country by road or rail, and quite frankly what they see out the window are scenes of industrial dereliction."

Brian Seymour-Smith, head of public relations at West Bromwich Building Society, said he constantly had to explain to business contacts in London where West Bromwich was.

He said: "The problem we have is a problem of image."

Mr Byrne said: "The question the conference will look at is, how do we create a different reputation for the region in the minds of people all over Britain and, in the run-up to the Olympics, all over the world?

"We have the cultural, the sporting, the heritage assets in this region that would put a small European nation to shame.

"The issue is how do we piggyback on that tourist traffic coming to Britain in the run-up to 2012, and get people to the West Midlands, and make sure they go home with the right impression of our region.

"It is these links to people around the world that is going to drive exports and growth for our region for decades to come."

People from the business community, tourism industry and cultural organisations are to be invited, along with councillors and MPs. The event, to take place in early November, is likely to be held in Stratford.

Mr Byrne also called for greater co-operation between the towns and cities of the West Midlands, and warned that the rest of the region would benefit if it was more willing to accept Birmingham’s leading role.

He said: "Birmingham is the region’s global hub, and in an era of globalisation, that is an enormous asset to tap into .

"You don’t have to accept that Birmingham will wipe out all other identities around it. But we have to try to get to a position where partners around the region are supporting the creation of global infrastructure in Birmingham, and secondly that Birmingham is supporting its partners in ensuring the wealth that comes into that hub is spread out.

"As a region we have got to accept that if we are going to win in the world then we have to play to each others' strengths. But we have to ensure that wealth is spread around."

He said the West Midlands had failed to tell the Government clearly what needed to happen to improve the region’s transport system, partly because of a lack of co-operation.