October 2010 Archives
Birmingham Airport has been dubbed 'London's new airport' by the Telegraph, thanks to plans for High Speed rail links(HS2) which could cut travel time between Birmingham and London from just over an hour at present to 38 minutes.
This, coupled with the runway extension - cleared by planning and environmental scrutiny and with investment now in place - could have a transformational effect on the wider Midlands economy.
Having successfully lobbied as part of the CBI North West team for Runway 2 in Manchester in the early 1990's, the numbers from that region are demonstrating the vital impact this investment has had on their economy and - in particular - on the growth of highly valued knowledge economy jobs.
I warned a year or so ago here that this was on its way. I warned that in time those who ended up as the eventual holders of diced and sliced, sausage machine debt packages which contained some very dodgy meat indeed, would eventually resort to legal action. It was a long-term, ticking time-bomb.
I said it might take a couple of years to filter through, but there would be a reckoning.
Once the legal and accounting investigations unravelled the trails, once they trackbacked the myriad of debt compilations to the original guilty parties, they would be after them. They are.
In the States it's come to be called the Put-Back.
"I can't predict which auto producers will be around in 10 years time on the basis of current trends," said Professor David Bailey, of Coventry University Business School and renowned Birmingham Post blogger.
Speaking to a packed audience of students and business people as part of the 'Design Built-In' visiting lecture series, held jointly by Birmingham City University and Aston University at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design last week.
"Patterns of production are shifting to lower labour cost areas, but still remaining within trade blocks relevant to end customers. Geographical proximity remains critical given the importance of exchange rate movements and the transportation costs associated with shifting cars around the globe.
We Birmingham folk have a peculiar way of showing our appreciation. Look at the askew, ironic fashion we regard our best-loved landmarks.
For example, we have the much-maligned Rotunda, a phallic throwback to over-reaching architectural ideals from the 60s. There's Spaghetti Junction, a fabulously ingenious concrete creation, with a tongue-in-cheek nickname that fails to do its complex construction justice. One of the city's most celebrated statues is known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi - disappointingly, people are yet to refer to the Statue of Liberty as The Tart With The Torch.
However, if I was to draw a venn diagram where each segment represented 'Cultural Significance', 'Local Renown' and 'Something That's A Bit Rubbish But We'll Praise It Like It's The Sistine Chapel', one establishment would stand proudly, greasily, on its own in the intersection. That establishment is takeaway hole Mr Egg, and I am here to honour its passing. Don't ask me why. I just feel duty-bound.
Having returned from a shopping trip with our children over the weekend I was struck (again) by how many successful UK fashion brands have grown out of our rich and often anarchic culture. There's quite an array of British fashion companies making me consider just how much innovation is coming out of what might sometimes be seen as our 'fuddy duddy' heritage.
We spent the day with little effort browsing (and indeed buying from) stores retailing lifestyle brands such as, Seasalt, Joules, Lazy Jacks, Mini Boden, White Stuff, Jack Wills, Howies, Toast and Superdry - an impressive range of youthful, culturally-inspired clothing.
These businesses are revelling in and largely inspired by sporting or coastal cultural heritage (surfing, skiing, sailing, love of the outdoors, motorsport), drawing on quirky, eccentric, humorous attitudes, together with a nod to craft values, to portray a contemporary picture of an aspirational (mostly) British lifestyle.
Here's an admission for you. I left work on Friday without having finished all the tasks I have on my plate.
The reason I can say for certain is because I actually do this every day. But I feel I am amongst friends because I have met many people who are the same position.
In fact, having coached dozens of executives, discussed this with hundreds of managers I have trained - including many super high achievers, I don't think any of them ever do finish everything before they leave the office.
But sometimes you think you have done everything perhaps when you go on holiday.
I would argue this is usually that you have set yourself things to do before going on holiday - a sensible strategy of ourselves - but this does not mean you have completely finished absolutely everything.
But super effective people who are promoted try to manage to finish every thing by working late, weekends or getting up extremely early and, even though they may well do these, they still won't finish everything.
The Takeover Panel this week rejected some of the more fundamental suggested changes to the takeover regime which were mooted in the wake of the controversial Kraft takeover of Cadbury.
The panel is in fact made of up City of London takeover specialists (accountants, bankers, lawyers) in a form of self regulation of the industry. It's the same bankers, lawyers and accountants who make enormous fees from keeping the M&A merry-go-round so active. It's hardly likely that these people will kill the golden goose that lays their bonus eggs.
It was no great surprise then that the panel rejected radical proposals first mooted by former Cadbury chairman Roger Carr that would have (i) increased the acceptance threshold for acquisitions and (ii) disenfranched shares held by short-term investors like hedge funds which piled into Cadbury shares so as to sell them on and make a fast buck.
The Panel also rejected a suggestion to reduce the level of disclosure of shareholdings from 1% to 0.5%. The latter was hardly radical stuff.
LP Hartley's famous opening words in 'The Go-Between', 'the Past is another country' contrast with Hardy's reflections in 'Tess' where 'Past and present are tied tight'. For me the past is very much alive, living on through the context of today's cultural backcloth.
TS Eliot said 'culture may ... be described simply as that which makes life worth living'.
How much do we really draw on our culture, taking inspiration from it as a means of informing and referencing work today to form a closer dialogue between producers and users of design?
The new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) being set up to - in part - replace RDAs, may get some support from trade experts at the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Department to manage inward investment and support exports, Business minister Mark Prisk said to the BIS Select Committee earlier this week.
However, Prisk confirmed that strategic control of inward investment activities would shift from the regions to Whitehall, and hence be recentralised.
Quite how that squares with Eric Pickles comments to the Tory Conference a few weeks ago that LEPs could take control of inward investment isn't at all clear.
What with good news in short supply these days it is great to report that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) management has finally secured a new agreement with the workforce that has allowed the company to give a commitment that all three plants - Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Halewood - will be retained. As a direct result of this agreement we understand that parent company Tata has now committed to a multi billion pound investment in the JLR business that is expected over the next ten years to lead to significant expansion of the workforce.