News: 23 November 2017This Birmingham buzz is just the beginning

Where do you want to be in 2030?  When we look to the future, it’s all too easy to focus on the aspirations in our personal life and work – ‘#lifegoals’ like buying a home, starting a family or setting up your own business. 

But how many of us sit down and really think about the kind of City we want to be living and working in? What type of City would you like Birmingham to be by 2030? And what improvements do we need to see to make that a reality?

We recently challenged people to do just that – and launched a poll to find out what change Birmingham needs to truly thrive over the coming decades. 

The results show an interesting picture. 88% of people we asked classed Birmingham as a successful City. So far so good, but perhaps more revealingly 78% of respondents also believe that this is a City with an image problem. 

To attract future investment – and win bids like the 2022 Commonwealth Games – we need to address those outdated perceptions and make sure this City is recognised as the culturally vibrant, innovative, prosperous hub we know it is.  

We simply cannot afford to rest on the laurels of past and present successes. Instead we need to capitalise on this positivity and level of activity for coming generations.

It feels like we’re reaching a pivotal point in the modern evolution of our City, and there’s a certain excitement in the City.  More than two-thirds of the people we surveyed would rank levels of aspiration in the City as high or very high. It’s time to translate this into bold ambitions and make sure these are heard across the Country. Ambitions that span housing, employment, transport, the digital sector, culture, health and the environment.

This is, after all, a City which lead the UK in the industrial revolution.  Birmingham’s ability to embrace change is written into its history – and it needs to continue to shine through in its future too.

When asked to identify the biggest obstacles to running a business in the City, the most common problems cited to us were connectivity, infrastructure and availability of labour. A close fourth was housing for staff.

Despite the recent increase of investment into Birmingham – not least the redevelopment of New Street Station, regeneration of the Jewellery Quarter and arrival of HS2 and the HS2 College – it’s telling that there are still considerable growing pains which could threaten to slow the City down.  These need to be tackled head on to make sure we don’t choke off our ambitions for Birmingham prematurely.

This means planning effectively and proactively for the right transport networks, housing, job growth, and community infrastructure like health, education and green space to support and attract the next transformative wave of investment.  All eyes might currently be on Channel 4’s decision, but we should already be setting our sights on the next big investors and making sure they can see the benefits of relocating to Birmingham.

To keep the momentum going, we need to get out in front, rather than running along behind.  Because it’s all too easy to look back and rue missed opportunities.  Given the chance to highlight one thing about the City that they would re-design or do differently, the majority of respondents to our poll focused on transport infrastructure and connectivity.  We have a responsibility to the next generation to be forward-looking in how we stimulate and manage development and the growth of Birmingham now. 

So, what do we want our transport networks and public transport to look like in future?  And how do we marry the economic needs with sustainability?  It’s time to be strategic and serious about where to invest next, what parts of the City and surrounding areas we need link up, and which new technologies we want to see come forward.  If we want Birmingham to be home to driverless cars, cycle routes or a monorail, we need to start building this into our thinking now.  We need a joined-up plan to set the framework in which we can deliver our shared ambitions. Connectivity was just one of the topics covered at the debate we held earlier this month, in conjunction with the Birmingham Post.  West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Gordon Shearer from KPMG and Victoria Ball from Trowers and Hamlins joined us on the panel to discuss what Birmingham should look like in 2030 and beyond, how we get there, and the role politicians, investors and the business community must play on the way.

Because with just over a decade to go until we hit 2030, these are exactly the conversations we need to be having, and the questions we all need to be asking ourselves.

Birmingham – what do you want to be in 2030?

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