Birmingham Post

Region seeing investors flock despite challenges

- TAMLYN JONES Business Staff

BIRMINGHAM and the West Midlands is proving a magnet for record levels of foreign investment and visitor numbers despite rising inflation and increased labour costs, according to newly published research.

The annual Birmingham Economic Review paints an upbeat picture of the city and 65 per cent of businesses across Greater Birmingham said they expected an increase in turnover over the next few months.

But the review by the City-Region Economic and Developmen­t Institute (City-REDI) at University of Birmingham and Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce also warns that recovery post-pandemic has been slower in the West Midlands than in other UK regions.

The slow fightback from Covid-19 has been offset by a rebound from the city’s business, profession­al and financial services sector which has “adapted well”, only shrinking by 1.1 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

The report reveals that the West Midlands attracted the largest share of foreign direct investment (FDI) outside London, with 181 FDI projects in 2022-23, an increase of 171 per cent on the previous year.

Overseas investors created a total of 8,252 jobs, a 48 per cent increase compared to 2021/22, with last year’s Commonweal­th Games playing “a key role” in the upsurge.

Meanwhile 2022 welcomed 141.2 million visitors to the West Midlands, a 38 per cent increase on 2021 and a five per cent rise compared to 2019, fuelled in no small part by the hosting of the Commonweal­th Games and the end of covid restrictio­ns. Spending by visitors rose to £14.1 billion, a 39 per cent increase on 2021 and a seven per cent rise compared to 2019.

By contrast, skill attainment remains below average, the report says, with 10.9 per cent of economical­ly active people aged 16 and over in Greater Birmingham having no qualificat­ions while Birmingham is ranked as the seventh most deprived local authority in England, a rating unchanged since 2015.

Henrietta Brealey, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “Our report shows Birmingham and the West Midlands attracting record levels of foreign direct investment and visitor numbers, with a transforme­d city centre and extensive regenerati­on under way. Businesses remain optimistic. A deeper devolution deal for the West Midlands Combined Authority has provided more regional leadership and control in key areas, enabling interventi­ons tailored to the needs of the region. This is all against a backdrop of significan­t economic uncertaint­y as rising inflation, interest rates, labour costs and more squeeze businesses.

“Despite all this, the fundamenta­ls that make Birmingham a great place to invest and do business remain compelling.”

Rebecca Riley, associate professor at City-REDI, added: “The UK economy continues to experience a series of economic shocks. This year the Ukraine situation has continued sending shocks through supply chains, adding to the worsening cost of living crisis, and ongoing uncertaint­ies around interest rates, debt and the strength of our currency.

“The West Midlands region has been hit harder than most by the effects of these shocks due to the sectoral mix and exposure to the cost impacts and the underlying health of the population.”

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