It is an exciting time for the region with the countdown to the 2022 Commonwealth Games and Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021 underway and relocations for the likes of HSBC and PWC announced. Wates Construction’s Business Development Manager for the Midlands, James Willis, looks at how the construction industry can work with the Midlands Engine to support growth in the region.
“Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the MIPIM property conference in Cannes, an event which provides a platform for local authorities and the business community to promote future projects and developments globally. Attending as part of the Midlands Engine delegation, the event filled me with immense confidence about the potential future prosperity of our region.
The designated Midlands Engine pavilion housed a coalition of councils, combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, universities and businesses, collaborating to showcase the region to foreign investors. It is this sense of solidarity that unlocks opportunities for growth in the region and we in the construction industry have a responsibility to support the Engine’s bold ambitions.
The productivity gap is often cited by analysts as one of the reasons the region isn’t as economically dynamic as it could be. The construction industry can help address this and we at Wates are actively engaging schools and colleges to give career advice to students, as well as conducting mock interviews to prepare young people for the world of work. Our forthcoming work on the Axis Square development in the centre of Birmingham will see us deliver a comprehensive programme of training and employment opportunities in order to foster and retain the talent that we know the region holds. It’s important to us that young people are alert to the exciting job prospects in construction and understand that they don’t need to move away from the areas where they either grew up or studied in order to have a fulfilling career.
It isn’t only our Axis Development scheme that will generate amazing opportunities for the region. Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games will not only retain, but also attract high quality talent and Coventry’s upcoming year of being the UK City of Culture will put us in the global spotlight. This success for the Midlands shows foreign investors that we are a serious contender for investment opportunities and this was already apparent from the buzz created at MIPIM.
The construction industry has a pivotal part to play in achieving the region’s ambitions for growth by creating impressive facilities to support these events, such as the new state of the art leisure centre in Sandwell, or the 1,200 new homes in Perry Barr, which will result in a lasting and tangible local legacy that will be felt long after the events have taken place. We only need look back at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and its transformative effect on long-neglected parts of East Manchester to appreciate the huge impact of the tournament and the associated investment and regeneration it brings.
Let us not forget the East of the region too, where investment in significant projects such as our delivery of the new Nottingham City Hub and renovation of Derby Market Hall, is resulting in social and economical benefits for these vibrant cities.
The Midlands Engine is only just getting started. The full breadth of opportunities it could yield is yet to be completely unlocked and as contractors, we can help turn the key.
Ensuring proposed schemes are commercially viable from the start is vital and we encourage our clients to engage with our pre-construction team so we can analyse scheme viability at the very earliest opportunity. Issues are then identified and resolved prior to planning, improving the rates of success and leading to the project, ultimately being built without incurring additional costs through the early stages.
Once on site, we contribute to local economic growth by procuring locally sourced materials and appointing local firms to our supply chain.
From our visits to schools and the services we receive daily from suppliers and subcontractors, I can confidently say that there is a massive pool of untapped potential in the Midlands, and it is our job at Wates and our colleagues in the construction industry to collaborate with partners across other industries to ensure the Midlands Engine achieves its potential.
In ten years’ time, I know I will look back at the past decade and see the prosperity we have brought to the whole region through these inspirational schemes and fantastic new buildings that have provided a platform for significant and transformative growth.”