July 2011 Archives

We're all guilty of wanting the latest gadget, the bigger house and the faster car, but isn't this leading us into a dead end rather than a brighter future?

This week we have seen the publication of the latest preliminary UK GDP figures. Not pretty reading. The UK is struggling to get back on its feet and pressures further afield are risking any form of sustained recovery. Perhaps it is too focused upon a consumption driven society?

William McGrath's words below, spoken at the launch of Innovation : Design Birmingham, are a call to action for our region's leaders offering ID Birmingham as a proposed innovation and design platform intended to amplify and highlight success whilst stimulating creativity, commerciality and entrepreneurial offers from our emerging talent by helping them to work with our established businesses.

William McGrath, Group Chief Executive, AGA Rangemaster speaking 20th July at the Birmingham School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University, said:

"Sir Roy McNulty arrived from Northern Ireland to chair Advantage West Midlands and brutally asked "What are the Midlands for and what are the region's unique selling features" ?

It had numerous well-funded and well-meaning bodies with Midlands in the title - but searches for collective action tended to result in muted responses amid mumblings about consulting colleagues and reviewing budgets.

And the result? All forms of action short of actual help. Suddenly, that all seems rather yesterday. One excellent answer to the questions long articulated by Beverley Nielsen harks back to William Morris' belief in the useful and the beautiful and she has ably shown that the Midlands has an innovation and a design record second to none.

Innovation : Design Birmingham, or ID Birmingham, was launched last week by Group Chief Executive, AGA Rangemaster, William McGrath, at a dinner hosted by Birmingham City University's Vice Chancellor, Prof David Tidmarsh, at the Birmingham School of Jewellery.

Guests from leading businesses, universities and partners including Jerry Blackett from Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Sir Albert Bore from the City Council assembled to support this initiative intended to link our identity - or our ID - more closely with our track record in innovation and design.

For over 300 years innovation and design have been at the heart of our endeavours as we continue to successfully draw on our unique heritage by combining our engineering and creative capacities to develop specialist, brand-led businesses improving the quality of life for people around the world.

Growth figures are out.

0.2% Growth in the last quarter.

That means only 0.2% growth over the last 9 months.

Not encouraging. In fact very worrying.

The reality is that there has in fact been no recovery. At best it is what might be termed 'a weakovery'.

Extremely weak growth in response to the technical end of a recession

If we don't get demand and QE into the economy it will become a Nocovery.

Tuba-shaped, hockey stick-shaped, L-shaped, flatlining - call it what you like. The chances of cutting the structural deficit in the lifetime of this parliament is zero in the face of this.

Update: 09.43
Even more worrying is that manufacturing actually contracted by 0.3% in the last quarter. In previous reports manufacturing was leading the way. Another false dawn?

I've just caught up on some fascinating research published last week by the consultancy firm SQW. This offers an independent analysis of many of the 29 second-round Enterprise Zone (EZ) bids.

The report is interesting as the government sees EZs as a big driver of growth and job creation. On first inspection the omens for the EZs bids on creating jobs looks positive. While SQW only looked at a selection of second-round EZ proposals, these 22 alone are expected by bidders to create some 125,000 overall.

That works out at around 5,600 jobs for each EZ, with forecast jobs figures ranging from less than 1000 to over 10,000 per zone. This information was taken from EZ bids; it's what bidders claim the EZs will do.

Global trends over the last two decades have created huge competitive pressures as well as major opportunities for companies in the Midlands. They have responded by moving their competitive offering away from cost, and towards innovation, new products and services. Underpinning this transformation has been the ability of companies to move quickly to respond to changing market circumstances and to seize new opportunities.


By David Bailey on Jul 23, 11 05:02 PM in Economics

Next week the Office for National Statistics will unveil growth figures for the second quarter of 2011. They're not likely to make very happy reading.

Even before the government's emergency budget last year, I was anyway concerned that we face a slow recovery owing to the lingering effects of the credit crunch, and the risk of extra shocks as the financial crisis enters phase II.

This 'Crisis Part II' is a sovereign debt crisis now laying bare the fault-lines in the Eurozone, and affecting some of our key export markets. While the efforts this week to patch up the Euro crisis make a small step along the road to a 'Fiscal Europe', I still wonder where the growth will come from in the European periphery.

For as long as I can remember, Birmingham has been struggling to define itself and with the success of Manchester, the argument over whether Birmingham's title of second city should head that way is forcing the debate. For me, I don't care much for titles, just what's happening on the ground.

Who really wants to be known as 'second' anything? Surely that is a negative message rather than a positive one and further reinforces the fact that Birmingham must sit in the shadow of another city?

It's perhaps not the most auspicious of starts to my first blog in a few months that it should begin with a health warning. But this one does: beware the lawyer called Stuart who starts pretending that he knows something about life at the sharper end of our justice system.

But all is not well in the legal profession and it's a serious issue that affects us all. As part of the Government's austerity measures, the budget for legal aid in civil cases is being cut by £350 million.

A default by any other name would smell as rank.

My first thoughts on last night's Greek Bond swap Euro rescue packages are, as you might expect, not positive. It would seem to me that time has been bought until the autumn and no more.

And, make no mistake, this is another massive bank bailout by taxpayers.

The scheme? There will be three bond exchange plans and one rollover plan through which the existing bondholders will take their 'haircuts'.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
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Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
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John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of and
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John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
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Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (
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Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
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Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
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Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
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Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
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Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
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Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
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Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
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Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
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Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
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Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
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