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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West Midlands innovation fund delivers eleven-fold return on investment and brings jobs to region

Central Technology Belt - Birmingham - Worcestershire

An independent evaluation of the Technology Transfer Fund (TTF2) (pdf, 431kb) has underlined the value that the SME support fund has played in regional economic growth.

The fund was launched by Advantage West Midlands in 2005 to assist development of small and medium sized science and technology businesses within the Central Technology Belt, the high technology corridor that follows the A38 from Birmingham, through Worcester, to Malvern. TTF2 offered grants of up to £25,000 to more than 150 local companies.

The report (pdf, 431kb) produced by ekosgen on behalf of Advantage West Midlands found that the TTF2 realised more than £25 million of additional net turnover for the businesses it supported, and also created an additional 47 jobs during the two year project lifespan.

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Investment in higher level skills needed to kick start the region’s recovery

Person sat next to computer screens at Serious Games Institute, Coventry UniversityInvestment in higher level skills is vital to kick start the region’s recovery from recession but the proportion of the workforce qualified to degree level or above is well below the national average, particularly in the private sector.

New research (pdf, 258kb) by the West Midlands Regional Observatory shows that overall investment in skills and training is holding up despite the recession.

In the first quarter of 2009, three quarters of manufacturing firms and 80% of service sector firms were planning to either increase or maintain levels of spending on training despite the recession – in both cases the second highest proportion in England.

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Britain’s got (hidden) talent

Open advantage computer room in BirminghamNew reseach has shown that two-thirds of UK workers with specialist skills are not using them in their professional careers.

The Western European Location Skills Audit undertaken by Oxford Intelligence covered eight ‘hard-to-find’ skill sets in ten countries.

The research showed that the UK ranks first in the Location Skills Index and either first or second in Technical IT, Engineering, Financial Services and Food Technologies.

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West Midlands economy suffers further falls

The latest West Midlands Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Survey released today makes grim reading as it reports further declines in economic output and a worsening of prospects for the next quarter.

Manufacturing firms in the West Midlands reported significant falls in domestic orders and further worsening of exports. This is impacting on investment and confidence, with fewer firms reporting plans for capital investment as expectations of profitability and turnover decline.

In services the picture is mixed, with domestic orders falling but strong growth in exports. Employment growth, while positive, has slowed on the previous quarter and cashflow has deteriorated. In the light of the continuing uncertainty the survey reports business confidence levels falling.