6 reasons why we now love Birmingham
The refurbishment of Birmingham New Street is opening up the city to fresh workers and investment, and with HS2 set to revitalise the region even further, a bright future lays ahead for the UK’s second cityJermaine Haughton
With an estimated 170,000 commuters passing through its concourse on its first day of opening, workers welcomed the newly refurbished £750m Birmingham New Street train station as the UK’s second city lays down a marker as one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country.
Part of a wider redevelopment of the city centre, the new-look Birmingham New Street station has ditched its dull, concrete past and looks more like an airport with a large atrium and clear roof allowing natural light to pour in. The flagship station also includes a new John Lewis store and the Grand Central shopping complex.
The transformation of the busiest station outside of London mirrors the substantial turnaround for the city’s local businesses and economy. Just two decades ago, the city seemed in crisis with its manufacturing base reduced, infrastructure worsening and the city centre an eyesore. However, through direct investment in infrastructure, culture and enterprise, Birmingham is prospering with numerous jobs and opportunities in a city that now looks and feels modern.
According to research from PwC and the Urban Land Institute, the “The City of a Thousand Trades” is the most investable city in the UK, with more innovation and development occurring there in 2015 than any other city outside of the capital.
Here are six other reasons Birmingham should be considered an ideal home for businesses.
Further regeneration projects
The revival of New Street station marks only the beginning of Birmingham’s makeover into a world-class city. The region secured more foreign investment than any other UK region last year with over 75 new projects creating over 4,800 jobs. The Snow Hill masterplan is a £200 million redevelopment of the area around Snow Hill station in central Birmingham to create a financial district comparable to London’s Canary Wharf. The Curzon area is also going under a refresh that will provide businesses and communities with office space, creative industries, housing, leisure and learning facilities as it gets set to host the arrival of the HS2.
The relocation of big corporations
Moving north of the hustle and bustle of London, some of the world’s biggest companies are moving their operations to the second city. Turning professional services into one of the city’s key sectors, multinational HSBC is transferring its UK bank headquarters to Birmingham in 2018, while Deutsche Bank has already expanded its local workforce to about 2,000 and is reportedly planning to open a trading floor in Birmingham. Moreover, Channel 4 bosses are seriously considering selling its London home and moving the public-owned broadcaster to the West Midlands, boosting the media presence of the region.
Improved Retail Offerings
With the opening of the new Grand Central shopping centre above New Street, Birmingham becomes the only area outside of London to have a Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and a John Lewis – underlining the options available to shoppers looking for luxury shopping experiences. Alongside the redevelopment of the city’s iconic Bullring shopping centre and the emergence of three Michelin-starred restaurants, these important changes to the face of Birmingham aim to make the cultural and retail spaces more attractive and welcoming to natives and tourists alike.
HS2: Faster Rail Travel From Birmingham
The completion of the controversial high-speed railway project joining London to the Midlands to the North of England is set to share some of the capital’s wealth across the country. A key destination on the HS2’s route, Birmingham commuters can travel to either London or Manchester within an hour, encouraging more workers and businesses to remain in the city, as they are able to work successfully without having to uproot to different cities. According to independent research carried out in 2013, the West Midlands metropolitan area is set to benefit from 50,000 additional jobs (26,000 in Birmingham/Solihull) and a £4bn increase in economic output per year.
Tech Startup Hub
With around 19,000 new businesses created in the past year, Birmingham has become the leading start-up hub outside of London, with entrepreneurs attracted to the city through affordable rents, cheaper staffing costs, the close proximity of several universities and generous incentive packages from the council. Birmingham has also doubled its number of accelerator and incubator programmes in the past two years, according to a report by O2-owner Telefonica: The Rise of the UK Accelerator and Incubator System. Once over-reliant on the automotive industry, the city has diversified its economy with a number of businesses spouting in sectors as varied as digital to renewable energy. Shopping app Droplet and hobby-based social network Hobzy are among the rising start-ups in the region.