Twenty-six leaders today released a report that calls on industry to make the region a “powerhouse” of a green industrial revolution.
It says the region, including Staffordshire and Shropshire, must lead development in battery technology and use its expertise in car production and manufacturing to lead the UK’s economic recovery.
Experts in the West Midlands Forum today give an upbeat view of the region’s economy, which they say has withstood the pressure of Covid and is now ready to push on, creating thousands of new jobs.
Margot James, former Midlands MP and minister for digital and creative industries, said the decade would mark an era of “renewal and hope”.
Ms James said: “We will use our outstanding expertise, innovation and talent, a powerful legacy of our proud industrial history, to be leaders in the coming global transformation in mobility, green energy and the digital economy.
“To do this, we must make the West Midlands the essential centre of the global manufacturing economy.
“Our cities and towns should be a welcoming home for world-leading advanced manufacturing and engineering firms.
“Our universities and research centres will drive forward advances in autonomous transport, carbon neutral mobility and the digital economy. The region will work together to create clusters of businesses to meet the needs of emerging high-growth markets. Succeeding here in the West Midlands will create half a million jobs.”
Shropshire has a rich history of manufacturing, with JLR, Ricoh and Denso among major employers that lead their field and already create thousands of jobs.
Business and political leaders today pledged to work together to bring long-term prosperity to our region.
A report released today by the West Midlands Forum paints an optimistic picture. It says the region has unique skills and experience that can lead the UK’s new green revolution.
The overall report – The Golden Decade: How the West Midlands Powers Forward in the Ten Years to Come – is dedicated to the memory of former Erdington MP and West Midlands Forum co-chair Jack Dromey, who died aged 73 in January.
Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East and shadow treasury minister, who helped create the report, said the country “needs a plan” to make the transition to net-zero – and the region can play a huge part of that.
Mr McFadden, co-chair of the forum, said the region has a “fantastic” record of innovation, a great network of universities, a young and diverse workforce and can “lead the charge” to make the most of the move.
The Labour front-bencher said: “My hopes for the next 10 years are that we make the most of this transition and of the strengths that our region can bring.
“In 2032, I hope to look back and see that the immense potential of the West Midlands has been utilised to build and create opportunities for people across the region.To do that will require us to create and maximise opportunities.
“That’s why we have to commit to increasing our manufacturing resilience and build on our innovation strengths to create security in our supply chains, raise stands and create the jobs of the future in this country. In the post-pandemic economy, we must grasp the moment and help to shape a more secure and resilient future for Britain and the West Midlands.”
Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said the Commonwealth Games would bring billions of pounds into the city but “shiny new buildings alone will not be enough”.
Other co-chairs of the think-tank includes Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, Baron Peter Snape who is a former West Bromwich East MP, and Wolverhampton councillor Beverley Momenabadi.
Liam Byrne MP, who represents Birmingham Hodge Hill and was the Labour candidate for the West Midlands Mayor, said: “With the right decisions, the heart of Britain could be transformed over the decade that takes us from the City of Culture in 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in 2022, through to the first high speed trains drawing into the region in the early 2030s.
“The West Midlands could be the power-house of a green industrial revolution which would provide secure highly paid jobs, quality homes, beautiful public spaces, and prosperity for generations to come. This will need innovation, investment, partnership, and good old fashioned community spirit.
“As the world recovers from the pandemic and shoots for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the West Midlands has an unparalleled opportunity to become the global leader it deserves to be. This could well be our golden decade.”
The West Midlands Forum brings together leaders from politics, industry, business, unions, universities and other sectors to build up a “share understanding” of how best to unlock the potential of the region.
Big firms like Jaguar Land Rover have already brought hundreds of jobs to the region and forum members will lobby for funding and investment to expand existing business in the region and persuade other companies to move here, taking advantage of the region’s skills base and transport links. .
Today’s report adds: “We aim to build consensus for action on the progressive causes we can champion together. And we help take the region’s case to decision-makers in the corridors of power in Parliament and Whitehall.”
New developments are helping the West Midlands lead a new, green industrial revolution.
The region is proving so successful in developing its low-carbon industries because many of its traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, automotive and energy supply, are looking to reduce carbon in response to the climate emergency.
One of the biggest planned developments is to build a gigafactory in Coventry, which will result in £2.5 billion worth of investment. A public-private joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd, it will create up to 6,000 new highly skilled jobs directly alongside thousands more in the wider supply chain in the region.
With many major automotive manufacturers based in the region, the West Midlands is recognised as the automotive skills capital of the UK. Therefore, it has access to both current and future talent, as well as the existing skills needed to support the West Midlands gigafactory.
Ready from 2025, the 530,000sq m facility will manufacture hi-tech lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive and energy storage industries and will have the capacity to deliver up to 60GWh by the end of the decade.
As the world rapidly moves towards an increasingly electrified future, gigafactories have been identified as critical to the UK’s automotive and domestic energy sectors, future economic growth and achieving net zero targets.
Last year, research found low-carbon manufacturing and goods were the West Midlands’ fastest growing sector. Figures showed that the region’s low-carbon industries grew by more than seven per cent in 2020 despite a nine per cent downturn in the wider West Midlands economy as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The region is already the manufacturing heartland of the UK and is world-leading in the automotive and energy storage industries. Now we’re ready to seize the initiative and become the home of the Green Industrial Revolution.
“We’re creating significant economic opportunities for businesses to thrive, invest, and create new jobs for local workers. Given the jobs we’ve lost to the pandemic, this is critical. Our regional ambition is to be net zero by 2041, and that means growing our low-carbon sectors even faster and creating even more jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”