A tough year for inward investment in the West Midlands

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Of these 88 successes, Advantage West Midlands were involved with just under half but this assistance helped create over 60% of the new jobs.

Some of these inward investments were high-profile including Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury in Bournville, Birmingham affecting nearly 3,000 employees at their head office as well many more around the country.

Other investments in the news included the acquisition of Birmingham City Football Club by Far Eastern businessman Carson Yeung’s Grandtop International, the continued expansion of the ex-Longbridge car plant by SAIC of China where a new engine test facility is to be built and the taking on 50 skilled engineers by Indian Tata Group’s Jaguar Land Rover.

Some other notable inward investments included:

  • Expansion of Japanese tool-maker Makita‘s manufacturing facility in Telford, which created 70 jobs
  • Expansion of TK Maxx‘s distribution depot in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, which created 100 jobs
  • FourStar from the Netherlands is to open a new UK headquarters in Birmingham employing over 250 people to provide employment and skills training to the unemployed

Two other investments from the United States also catch the eye. Remotec in Coventry, a subsidiary of Northrup Grumman, expanded its facility designing and manufacturing robotic bomb disposal units.

But it’s the opening of a new computer games design studio in Digbeth, Birmingham by Microsoft-owned Rare Games that’s hoped will give a boost to games design in the Midlands. 90 new games designers will be employed there.

Analysis of West Midland inward investment

Further analysis of the inward investment figures show that, with 88 investments, 2009/10 saw the fewest number of investments in the  West Midlands since 2005/06 when investment numbers were still recovering from the falls in global investment since 2001. This highlights the fact that the global economic crisis began to seriously affect investment decisions.

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Updated resource guide for Local Economic Assessments

Understanding local factors in a local area’s economic development, how these have developed, how they’re predicted to develop, and which factors are (or have potential to be) particularly significant — will be essential in informing developing Local Enterpise Partnerships (LEPs) and economic strategies. Equally, the functional relationships between local areas is likely to become more important in policy-making.

With regions no longer the focus of evidence-gathering and policy-making, and an increased emphasis on local decision-making, Local Economic Assessments are an opportunity to focus the collection of evidence to understand the impact of new national policies and to develop local economic ‘stories of place.’

The intelligence in a Local Economic Assessment can also highlight where resources can most productively be targeted to improve local economic development.

To help Local Authorities prepare their Assessments, we’ve created a new web-based resource guide, building on an earlier version circulated in May. This addition to the Observatory’s resource catalogue signposts resources relevant to Local Economic Assessments produced by a range of organisations, as well as the Observatory’s own research.

The resources are grouped into six areas, based on the themes set out in LEA guidance published in March 2010. While that guidance is no longer statutory, it’s still a useful framework to draw on.

The themes you can search by are:

Within each theme, you can search for:

  • Data sources: datasets and primary research
  • Analysis: interpretation of data and other evidence in the West Midlands and local authorities
  • Guidance documents: examples and methodologies for you to follow if you wish
  • Other resources: examples of research from outside the West Midlands, and useful links to other websites and research networks

We hope you find this resource guide useful. You can be notified when new resources are added via this RSS feed or email alert. If you have resources you think others would find useful, please submit them to our Resource Catalogue (requires login) or contact stephen.howarth@wmro.org.

Research published on prospects for the West Midlands economy post recession

Report cover: The West Midlands economy post recessionAt the end of June, the Observatory published The West Midlands Economy Post Recession: Key Issues and Challenges (pdf, 844kb), a major piece of research exploring the changing needs of the region’s economy and labour market as it emerges from recession.

The research is informing the decisions of employers, individuals, providers and the skills system as they look to focus their investment in key areas to maximise impact.

Firstly, the research considers the region’s recent poor economic performance and the key factors that have contributed to this.

We detail the weaknesses within the region’s economic structure and, in particular, the dependence on public sector and lower value added private sector activities, in terms of GVA and jobs, and the limited representation of high value added, knowledge-based sectors.

We also highlight the low rates of productivity in many of the sectors that dominate the regional economy and assess the skill gaps and shortages businesses in the West Midlands face and the impact on productivity and performance.

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Office for National Statistics West Midlands newsletter May/June 2010

Office for National StatisticsThis newsletter contains information on statistical consultations together with recent and planned ONS publications that might be of interest to you.

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Interactive maps – beyond election results

Media coverage of yesterday’s general elections has included many interactive online maps. Voters have been able to explore the election votes in different ways, seeing who won what where, and how close the contests were.

Here at the Observatory, we use InstantAtlas software to produce this kind of map. We’ve produced a map of yesterday’s election results as an example, but in fact we have many other maps available covering a wide range of topics. For example, Jobseeker’s Allowance claims by ward or the results of the place survey, which asked residents how they felt about their local government.

Looking at these kinds of data geographically can often be illuminating; maps can often reveal patterns that the raw data alone wouldn’t reveal. At the Observatory, the spatial dimension is something we’re always considering – maps aren’t just for election time!

Local Economic Assessments: resource guide for the West Midlands

It became compulsory for Strategic Local Authorities to produce Local Economic Assessments (LEAs) on 1st April 2010. LEAs are intended to bring together economic intelligence to inform a range of local and regional strategies.

One of these is the new Regional Integrated Strategy for the West Midlands.

The West Midlands Joint Strategy and Investment Board steering the regional strategy has agreed with Chief Executives that LEA input will be on a sub-regional basis.

The LEA summaries will be structured around a series of questions relating to regional issues set out in a sub-regional framework document (doc, 578kb) drafted by Advantage West Midlands and the West Midlands Leaders Board.

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West Midlanders more likely to rate their last arts experience as ‘high quality’

A detailed review (pdf, 3.5mb) of the arts-related Taking Part Survey (2008/09) results published by Arts Council England has found that arts attendees in the West Midlands are more likely to describe their last arts experience as ‘high quality’ compared to other regions.

When statistical differences are taken into account, the proportion of residents reporting high quality arts experiences in the West Midlands (66%) was higher than proportions in four other regions.

In line with national trends, compared to the previous year, the proportion of West Midlands residents participating in at least one annual arts activity took a statistically significant drop from 47.2% to 42.7%. Also, there was no (statistical) change in the proportion of residents attending at least one art event per year (62.1%) compared to the previous year (64.7%).

Given the evidence (documented in our quarterly recession monitoring papers) that certain sections of the arts sector saw audiences decrease during the 2008/09 economic downturn, it can be speculated that the fall in participation rates may be related to consumer patterns during the recession.

Download the report: Arts engagement in England 2008/2009 (pdf, 3.46mb)

Photo by Gabriela Camerotti

How Sustainability West Midlands are using low carbon economy research

Here’s a short video with Dr Simon Slater, Executive Director at Sustainability West Midlands.

Local authority and business leaders in the West Midlands were asking Simon ‘what are the risks and what are the opportunities in the low carbon economy?’

In this video, Simon discusses how working with the Observatory to research and evidence regional growth into a low carbon economy is helping his organisation and partners in the region answer such questions.

(Watch the video on Viddler.com)

West Midlands Culture Programme for London 2012: the impact so far

Two people jumping in the airThe West Midlands Culture Programme for London 2012 (WMCPforL2012) has attracted a total audience of just under a quarter of a million people (220,000), according to a report (pdf, 1.5mb) launched by the West Midlands Cultural Observatory this month. That’s around two and a half Wembley Stadiums full of people for those of you that like to visualise these things!

In the first of a series of reports, West Midlands Culture Programme for London 2012: An evaluation of impact (2008-2010) (pdf, 1.5mb) presents evidence associated with:

  • The social and economic impact of the programme to date
  • The extent and value of media coverage that for the programme
  • The programme’s impact on the capacity of the West Midlands cultural sector
  • Changes in peoples’ perception of the region and its cultural offer (having taking part in programme activities and events)

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State of the Region – image and identity of the West Midlands

West Bromwich at nightLast week, we started a new State of the Region dialogue on the image and identity of the West Midlands.

The future of the region will be determined by the decisions that individuals make – decisions such as whether to locate in the region, to invest in business or property, to study at one of our universities or to visit the region for business or leisure.

All of these decisions will be influenced by people’s view of the region’s image and identity.

A range of information is already collected, locally, regionally and nationally, about how people view the region and how it compares with other places.

There is also more general research, looking at what drives and changes image and identity. The workshop brought together different sources of evidence to determine the story they tell us about the West Midlands, summarised in the three presentations available below.

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Continuing the legacy of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise

Thanks to Marla Nelson from the Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project for providing this guest post.

A new initiative has been launched in the West Midlands as a legacy project building on the work and findings of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise (WECOE).

The Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project is managed by Enterprise Solutions, who will continue to influence, lobby and advocate for the women’s enterprise agenda in the West Midlands region, funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

The project aims to assist Advantage West Midlands in implementing WECOE policy recommendations, and work with Business Link West Midlands and other key strategic partners to ensure policy and practice is mainstreamed in supporting greater diversity in enterprise and business support across the region.  The 2-year WECOE project completed in December 2009.

To find out more about the Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project, and Enterprise Solutions (MN), contact Marla Nelson at marla@enterprisesolutionsmn.com or call 07515 597 595.

Key findings for West Midlands from National Employer Skills Survey 2009

Cover of report National Employers Skills Survey 2009 report - key findings for West Midlands regionThanks to  Sam Richardson from the Young People’s Learning Agency (formerly of Learning and Skills Council West Midlands) for contributing this post.

A report on key findings for the West Midlands (pdf, 1mb) from the National Employer Skills Survey 2009 was published in March.

The survey consisted of just over 79,000 telephone interviews (8,186 in the West Midlands) with employers across England (the largest number to date) between March and July 2009.

It represents by far the largest and most comprehensive source of information on current skills issues affecting employers in England.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills previously published a summary of national findings.

A more comprehensive description of the national results will be available in a full report due June 2010 (after the election). The survey data is available for exploration and data mining at http://nessdata.ukces.org.uk.

Economy and Labour Force newsletter: April 2010 issue

Economy and labour force newsletter

We sent out a new issue of our Economy and Labour Force newsletter today.

The newsletter summarises recent articles, new research and commentary related to the economy, skills, employment and labour market in the West Midlands.

You can view the newsletter in your browser or in pdf.

Related links

Breaking into the Low Carbon Economyhttp://wmro.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/higher-level-skills-can-help-boost-the-region%e2%80%99s-economic-recovery/

Car breakers and recyclers, along with the construction industry, could benefit significantly from existing and future low carbon legislation according to research from the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The low carbon agenda is gaining pace as the West Midlands seeks a way out of recession, because of the range of opportunities that it provides.

In a low carbon economy businesses deliver products and services, while reducing their level of carbon emissions. We tend to link the low carbon economy with high-tech industry and high levels of innovation, technology and investment. However, the Observatory’s research has found that the opportunities stretch well beyond hydrogen cells, solar panels, electric cars and science parks. There are a number of opportunities for the rest of the region’s economy.

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Continuing professional development company uses Regional Skills Assessments to inform their research

Recently, I interviewed Kim White, a member of our Economy & Labour Force topic group, about his use of the Regional Skills Assessment to direct the work of his organisation.

In October 2008, Kim, Chief Executive of Intelligent Career Development Limited (also known as i-CD) and was given the task by the Vice Chancellor of Wolverhampton University to set up a company specialising in Continuing Professional and Personal Development (CPPD).

i-CD is the result of a project conducted to identify the most effective way for the University to provide support to businesses in the area of CPPD. i-CD specifically works to develop courses and schedules which students and employers, in the workplace, find useful and relevant.

Kim used a variety of sources to help inform his research into the needs of employers and students, and to identify potential gaps within the CPPD marketplace.

The Regional Skills Assessment 2007 (pdf, 714kb), published by the West Midlands Regional Observatory, was one such source.

Kim said that the Regional Skills Assessment 2007 helped him to identify:

  • The need to train and upskill more employees to NVQ level 4 and above
  • The barriers to engagement in employment and learning (such as encouraging more students and graduates to remain in the West Midlands after graduation)

Related links

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