JLR, i54 and the Regional Economy: Let's not forget the work of AWM
A very short supplemenatry blog to my earlier pieces on JLR and the wonderful news of the new engine plant planned for the i54 site in Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton.
Of course, the key thing here is that JLR is investing heavily in the Midlands, and who takes the credit for that politically is a secondary issue.
But we should note that a number of public agencies have played a role here. The local authorities have been key, as has the Black Country LEP in getting enterprise zone status for the site (and I guess that faster planning and enhanced capital allowances will help the JLR investment). The national government also played a role in supporting the investment.
But let's also note the role of Advantage West Midlands in getting to this point. It's worth remembering that:
1.It took almost ten years' of AWM effort in remediating the i54 site, putting in infrastructure and attracting tenants - think MOOG, Eurofins and now JLR.
2. AWM agreed the deal with JLR for the purchase of the site months ago, and then had to secure BIS approval for the deal.
3. AWM owned the site until one minute past midnight on 18th September 2011 (i.e. the day before the announcement was made).
With AWM being abolished and use of the 'R' word banished, it's inevitable that AWM will get airbrushed out of the picture - but let's not forget the positives coming out of AWM's record - whether the Rover Task Force, Regional Rask Force, or its work in regenerating sites like i54.
One day the need to join up the work of LEPs through some sort of intermediate scale will be back on the political agenda. The lessons from RDAs (positive and negative) will need to be remembered. AWM wasn't perfect but it did a lot of good work for the region's economy and i54 is one example of that.
Professor David Bailey works at Coventry University Business School