The boom in Birmingham's economy isn't so much a boom any longer, but a way of life, the new normal for a city that's finally believing in its potential.

We're no longer surprised that global firms like HSBC and PwC are investing so heavily here.

Why wouldn't they? The city is skilled, well connected, innovative and youthful.

As the Midlands' biggest city, the success of Birmingham is an important bellwether for the rest of the region.

Ensuring the Midlands' ten million-strong population and 800,000 businesses can get to, from and through Birmingham quickly and efficiently will benefit all of us, far beyond the gleaming new buildings at Paradise and Eastside.

 

The Midlands Engine's latest campaign is inviting the business community to speak to them, to leverage the significant public sector support at its disposal to support the private sector, whether that's on a trade mission to China or among thousands of investors at property conference MIPIM.

As the Midlands Engine's transport partner, and a central tenet of its strategy to create jobs and increase productivity, Midlands Connect has a clear role.

We put strategic connectivity at the core of economic growth plans and turn hard evidence into lasting, transformative investment with real-world benefits.

Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect
Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect

It's no coincidence the spectacular rise in Birmingham's position as a global magnet for inward investment has occurred alongside a step-change improvement in transport infrastructure and particularly in tandem with the prospect of HS2 trains rolling in to the city centre in 2026.

Better transport and economic development are symbiotic for two important reasons.

First, it allows people to move more freely, offering more choice over where to work, study and enjoy leisure activities.

It means we can travel further to find a better-paid job, the perfect university course or an amazing day out.

A more reliable road and rail network enables more of these movements, stimulating economic output and making us all more productive.

 

Second, better infrastructure allows businesses to access larger pools of skilled workers and move goods around more efficiently, whether that's a professional services firm choosing its new headquarters or an advanced manufacturer like JLR that needs reliable roads and railways to get its goods to national and international markets.

Investing in transport in Birmingham and the wider Midlands - at the heart of the country's rail and road freight operations - is therefore a national as well as a regional imperative.

I speak daily to business leaders about our plans to relieve pressure on our congested motorway networks and A roads and shift more freight from those roads and on to our railways.

The message I keep hearing, from organisations of all sizes, is clear: if there's certainty that people and goods can move more efficiently across rail and road, we will grow more quickly.

Business certainty may be thin on the ground at the moment but the West Midlands is nothing if not resilient.

The region's exports are rising fast - up 7.6 per cent to £33.7 billion in 2017/18.

Across the Midlands Engine area as a whole, our collective might would make us the 12th biggest exporter on a ranked list of EU countries, ahead of Portugal and Denmark.

As we forge a new place for ourselves in the world post-Brexit, the potential for further growth, with a long-term connectivity plan, knows no bounds.

Transport is a proven economic enabler - jobs and prosperity can't be created without it and development plans fall flat without the right infrastructure in place.

The catalytic effect HS2 is having on Birmingham is testament to that.

HS2 underpins the future of all transport in the Midlands and makes the region far more attractive to inward investors.

 

Together with plans from Transport for West Midlands to extend the Metro network through the city centre and beyond, and West Midlands Rail Executive's 30-year vision to transform commuter services on the ever-popular Cross City line, the arrival of HS2 to the Midlands underpins the future of all transport plans in the Midlands and the North.

It's a giant piece in the jigsaw that integrates our transport networks and helps unify the country by bringing us all that bit closer together.

That jigsaw includes Midlands Connect's own flagship project, the Midlands Rail Hub, to dramatically increase rail services across the region, including an extra 20 trains an hour into and out of Birmingham to the East Midlands, Hereford and Worcester and the South West.

We'll continue to use Birmingham and the West Midlands' extraordinary renaissance as an exemplar of how putting transport at the heart of regeneration plans can reap rewards.

For hundreds of years, infrastructure has been central to our success story. It will remain so for the next hundred, if we all pull together in the same direction.

Maria Machancoses is programme director for cross-regional transport body Midlands Connect