The history of Birmingham manufacturing is a complex one, due to a number of industries, inventions and ideas that have been forged here. From as early as the 16th century, Birmingham was hammering, forging and welding its way to becoming a centre for industry and innovation.
Canals soon became the in thing in the second city, the first one being completed 1772 (did you know it has more canals than Venice(!) if you didn’t know that, are you even from Birmingham?), the canals were heavily relied upon by manufacturing due to Birmingham’s geographical location. By the 18th century, Birmingham was the greatest city going.
It was full of inventors, over the years us Brummies have invented some pretty diverse stuff, in 1861 Charles Darwin’s half-cousin, Sir Francis Galton invented the very first weather map.
The man who created plastic came from Birmingham, Alexander Parkes is the man you have to thank for the impossible plastic packaging they put kids toys in, rendering it impossible for them to open it on Christmas Day - cheers Al.
Cardboard foldable cartons (like cereal boxes) was created here, Charles Henry Foyle devised the concept and founded the company Boxfoldia (catchy!) in 1920.
The 1830’s saw Birmingham become the centre of rail travel, the Grand Junction Railways linked Birmingham with the big smoke - this slowly morphed into the hub of national railway. 100 years later there were 240 steam engines in Birmingham, by the early 20th century the term ‘a city of a thousand trades’ was coined to describe the city.
Manufacturing has declined which has seen the landscape of Birmingham’s industry change.
History lesson over, it’s time to look to the future.
There’s still a thousand trades here in Birmingham, they’ve just changed slightly. Sadly, this decline has seen Birmingham and the rest of the Midlands left behind.
Until now… maybe.
The chances are, you haven’t even heard of it. It’s going to impact you in a big way in the near future, and you may not know it even exists!
In fact, according to the SME Confidence Tracker and Bibby Financial Services, only 51% of SME business in the West Midlands were aware of it.
Don’t worry, here at Love Finance, we got you.
The ‘Midlands Engine’ is a 9 billion investment in the region with particular focus on Birmingham city centre. Ever felt like the Midlands gets left behind a little bit when it comes to the national conversation about where is the place to do business? Well, the Midlands Engine is designed to rebalance that.
The Midlands economy is worth a cool £217.7bn, which sounds swell until you see that there is a 15% productivity gap between us and the rest of the UK. The government claim that many graduates leave the region upon finishing university, rather than putting down roots in their home counties. Poor transport links also account for a fragmentation of the Midlands as a whole making the whole place feel less than the sum of its parts - something I’m sure we can all relate to.
A strategy was launched in March which detailed how some of this money will be spent, £392m will be invested in local transport and £20m will be spent to up-skill the region. In addition to this, a £250m scheme will be set up to help SME businesses expand.
The Midlands Engine is also seen as a potential win for the manufacturing industry here in Brum, according to our own data there are 5,674 manufacturers in the Birmingham area.
It would seem pretty straightforward, then. The Midlands Engine rolls on in and manufacturers benefit, right?
Britain leaving the EU could cause some significant stumbling blocks for the Midlands Engine, extra checks by the European Investment Bank on UK projects due to the “unprecedented situation” (i.e. Brexit) could well be a possibility, meaning manufacturing firms won’t feel the full effect of the Midlands Engine until later than billed. Furthermore, there is a very real concern that the Midlands simply won’t have the numbers. The region faces a skills shortage within construction and manufacturing.
So, the Midlands Engine, a potential game-changer or another dud policy? We want to start a discussion on this, get commenting on social media and let us know your thoughts on the Midlands Engine and where you think it’s going to take Birmingham.