Chief executives and foreign dignitaries visiting Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games this summer will be wooed by politicians who hope the event will kick-start a “golden decade” for investment in the city.
The former home of the Birmingham Municipal Bank, next to HSBC’s headquarters in Centenary Square, will be transformed into “UK House” where visitors will be shown investment opportunities in eight sectors, including tourism, creative and digital, business services and sport.
“This does feel like Birmingham’s time,” Ian Ward, leader of the city council, said. “We have all these things aligned — the Games, high-speed rail arriving — and I do think we need to make the most of this, because we’ll never get these opportunities again at one time and this will be a golden decade of opportunity for the city.”
More than a million tickets for the Games, which run from July 28 to August 8, have been sold and the hospitality industry looks set to benefit both from home fans and delegations from Commonwealth countries.
Ward wants to attract more businesses and developers to open and build offices in Snowhill, the business district that is home to KPMG, Barclays and BT. The council is also seeking health, medical and research businesses to take space at a new Birmingham Health Innovation Campus which is due to open next year in Selly Oak.
The city is home to more than 1.1 million people and its population is far younger and more diverse than the national average: 40 per cent of its inhabitants are under 30. The local economy is supported by five universities and six big colleges.
Projects that Ward is eager to see developed include a plan to create production studios in the Digbeth creative quarter so that spin-offs of Peaky Blinders, the BBC drama set in the city, can be filmed in Birmingham. Recent series have mainly been filmed in Manchester and Liverpool.
The council is also seeking an investment partner to develop 5,000 new homes and office, leisure and community space on surface car parks next to the National Exhibition Centre, the large conference centre in Solihull. It is looking for development and investment partners to build hundreds of homes in Perry Barr, a suburban area in the north of the city.
Birmingham was ranked third-highest outside London for foreign direct investment in EY’s latest “attractiveness survey” after Edinburgh and Manchester, down from second place in the previous year.
The council plans to attract investment from delegations from Commonwealth countries such as India and Canada during the Games. It is also hoping to secure domestic investment for projects including its “three cities retrofit initiative”.
Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton councils are due to meet officials from the Treasury and the Department for Levelling Up at the end of the month in an attempt to secure central government seed funding for their joint plan to make 165,000 social homes more energy efficient. If successful, they will then seek a private sector partner to set up a business that can make it cheaper for others in the West Midlands to improve their homes.
“The Commonwealth Games gives us an opportunity to transform the city’s image both nationally and internationally,” Ward said.
“People who have not been to Birmingham tend to have a very old-fashioned view of what the city is like. You come to Birmingham now and it is a modern, global city.”