Region still leading for foreign business investment
The West Midlands has retained its position as the UK’s leading region outside London and the South East for attracting foreign direct investment.
The Department for International Trade’s latest official figures show that 157 new FDI projects were recorded in the region during the year to the end of March.
The West Midlands accounted for eight per cent of the UK’s total projects and t number of new, associated jobs created totalled 3,883 with an additional 2,220 jobs safeguarded.
Matt Hammond, chairman of the West Midlands Growth Company, the region’s official inward investment agency, said: “The latest figures from the Department for International Trade reinforce the West Midlands as one of the UK’s most important regions to drive economic growth.
"Despite a period of unprecedented trade disruption globally, the region’s inherent industry strengths and critical mass of talent have assured our ability to successfully compete on the world stage.
“We are proactively showcasing the region’s expertise in future mobility, digital healthcare and sustainable construction to promote our leading role in a more resilient, inclusive and decarbonised future.
"Additionally, the region’s hosting of major global events in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture 2021 will be fully maximised as part of our enhanced investment strategy targeting the Commonwealth markets.
“It is clear the post Covid-19 downturn in many areas of cross-border investment will continue into next year. Our revised FDI strategy therefore needs to consider the West Midlands’ most vulnerable target sectors in addition to how it will grow its most buoyant."
The leading sectors for attracting investment were advanced manufacturing, automotive, software and computer services and business and consumer services. Notable investment projects in the region included Swedish firm Assa Abloy, the world’s largest lock manufacturer.
The business, which has its UK headquarters in Willenhall, invested £6 million in a new industrial and warehouse unit in Well Lane, Wolverhampton.
The West Midlands’ inward investment strategy for the 2020-2021 financial year will see the continued targeting of the region’s high-growth industries that include financial and professional services, property and construction, financial technology, digital technology and games, transport technologies, energy storage and medical technology.
The strategy also incorporates a shift towards the region’s immediate priority areas, including responding to the needs of current investors to safeguard existing employment; supporting the West Midlands’ 10 priorities for post-Covid-19 economic recovery; deploying business engagement activity to assist policy intervention recommendations that improve the regional investment environment and maximising opportunities for international trade through the 2022 Commonwealth Games and West Midlands India Partnership .
The West Midlands’ £3.2bn economic recovery blueprint aims to support the region’s investment pipeline, with a focus on accelerating local infrastructure development as well as digital and transport connectivity. The proposal earmarks £650m for the regeneration of brownfield land, £95m for the acceleration of the HS2 Interchange Station and £44m to enhance the region’s 5G digital connectivity.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The region’s distinctive set of unique assets provide the essential preconditions for an effective long-term economic recovery. The West Midlands’ latest foreign investment performance is a clear signal of this.
“Our region’s recovery blueprint has already been backed by £150m in Government funding, which will help to instill even greater confidence in our region, unlocking a wave of additional, new investment.
“From harnessing our battery manufacturing strengths through a proposed West Midlands gigafactory, to bringing forward investment for new electric vehicle infrastructure and the National Brownfield Institute - our recovery plan identifies further opportunities to level up the UK economy and remain globally competitive in a post-pandemic world”.
Central to both the region’s recovery and investment plans is accelerating and maximising the benefits of key milestones such as HS2 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The major global sporting event will form a key vehicle to deepening economic relationships with key Commonwealth markets including India, Canada and Australia.
Since the onset of Covid-19, WMGC with the West Midlands Combined Authority and the region’s three local enterprise partnerships has also engaged regional businesses and stakeholders to aid policy recommendations to support the region’s post-pandemic investment landscape.