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The decision which the City Council is now prepared to make to dismiss from the city centre some of its oldest business inhabitants, by moving the Wholesale Markets out of their current site to somewhere outside the city centre, is a momentous, colossal mistake.
The actual report has yet to be published. I have not been made privy to it. The press have been briefed on the basics, however. I can only now comment on those.
The knock-on effects on the retail markets will be catastrophic, which is why the two have been linked, and should be linked, in the debate. The vitality of these markets, wholesale and retail, are part of the business and community lifeblood of this city, a beating heart; and they are in deepest danger.
Momentous, because it indicates to me a fundamental disconnection in policy between the council's leadership (of any recent political colour) and where this city needs to develop. We are going backwards to a world which has already inflicted great damage to this city.
To describe New Street Station as a blight on the face of Brum is probably being a bit unfair to the unpleasant things in the world that are merely blights. At best, you could describe it as a necessary evil - an awful lot of us use it (140,000 every day, double the capacity it was built to deal with) but I don't imagine anyone likes the experience much.
It will come as no surprise when I say that I can't wait until it looks like this (the first half of which will be open at the end of this year):
So, imagine how chuffed I was when, before Christmas, I was able to be shown around the construction site. I was particularly impressed to see all the work going on out of public view whilst keeping the station up and running with little (if any at all) disruption.
Had it not been a breach of healthy and safety, I would have taken my hard hat off to the team from Network Rail and Mace who are delivering the project. As of the time of my visit, most of the work had been in relation to the new atrium (roughly the size of two football pitches) in what was the second floor of the old NCP car park.
However, over Christmas, the project went into overdrive. Between Christmas Day and 27 December, engineers used a 700 tonne crane to lift out an old section of the Navigation Street footbridge and install the new parts which extend it all the way to Platform 12.
Christmas also saw a new tower crane at the front of the station, the removal of the old Pallasades link bridge and escalator above Station Street, preparatory work on platforms 1-7 to construct the foundations for new public space and construction of new train crew accommodation above Platform 1, all achieved whilst Brummies hit the sales or went to the panto at the Hippodrome (which, if you are reading this before 29 January, I would wholeheartedly recommend seeing).
In what are troubled times for the construction industry, the project is also keeping a lot of people gainfully employed between now and 2015. It will also provide 350,000 sq ft of new development to the south of the station and, once completed, is anticipated to deliver 3,200 new jobs (650 in the John Lewis store alone).
We are also going to get a transport hub fit for the 21st century; one which will not only help make the daily commute a lot more pleasant but will provide a far-more-welcoming first impression for visitors to the Second City. It's good to have some good news to look forward to.
But, every silver lining comes with a cloud and I must admit to one reservation about the project: that pesky John Lewis. My good lady has intimated that it is going to result in the hard-earned Pemble shekels being spent on never-knowingly-undersold household knick-knacks that I (no doubt foolishly and incorrectly) suspect we could do without. I suppose I shouldn't complain too hard: I have been given 3 years' advance notice.
This is the blog version of my print column in the Business Post on 5th january 2012.
If you own farmland, you've had a good time recently. Knight Frank's last quarter 2011 report says that farmland values in the UK have increased by 84 per cent over the last five years, and have trebled over the last 10 years.
While commercial property has been very groggy, farmland values have soared and have outperformed just about every other asset.
It raises again the business and political question of who exactly owns UK plc's increasingly lucrative land and whether this is being properly owned, used, managed, leased and, most immediately, taxed for the benefit of UK businesses and the UK economy.
In particular - is this unreformed sector one which can help as a first port of call in deficit reduction?
A striking problem in the UK is that much of the freehold of the land surface is still held by our own UK oligarchs whose monopoly has stifled business growth in this sector.
While there might be a relatively thriving market in leasehold rural and commercial land, the freehold land business is stifled at each turn by a monopoly of about 200 individuals who have, completely without regulation, cornered the market. They own Britain.
The UK's über-wealthy oligarchs are not Russians, but titled British aristocrats - marquises, earls, dukes baronets and lords. As I've blogged in the Birmingham Post before, about 200 aristocrats now own at least £200 billion of freehold land. I make that 0.0003 per cent of the population.
I've just met Dubai's answer to Birmingham Chamber chief Jerry Blackett.
However, apart from their undeniable good humour, there is little Jerry shares in common with this agreeable bear of a man.
Firstly, Jerry runs his empire from a slightly tired concrete affair off the Hagley Road in Edgbaston, while Omar Khan's office is on the upper floors of an ultra modern oyster-shaped headquarters overlooking the main creek with the world's tallest building - the 828m high Burj Khalifa - towering in the distance.
Peter Walker, Communication & Marketing Director at Lang Contractor, shared with me a story that happened some time ago:
The underlying value of private housing construction projects starting on site fell between May and July after 6 months of sustained growth according to the latest data from industry analysts Glenigan.
The B.E.S.T Show (Built Environment Solutions & Technologies), formerly Interbuild, is the new major UK construction exhibition to take place in Birmingham. Only 13 weeks to go.
60 seconds interview with the man behind the event:
1. Who are you?
I am David Pierpoint, Event Director of the BEST series of exhibitions taking place at the NEC, 17th - 20th October 2010.
My background is in sales and marketing, mostly in the media sector and largely around exhibitions and conferences. I grew up in the Midlands, and went to university in Birmingham. Sadly I now live in exile in London.
2. What is the story of your company?
...His wife curses every day the blackberry that came with the job. He constantly checks his emails, even at bedtime. Karl Marx would have called this the invisible golden handcuffs of the proletariat.
(3) Simultaneously, it is also a curse for employers. Many people intertwine private and business affairs in the social media world by their addiction to it. It affects productivity. If you check your email or facebook account every 30 minutes, when do you have time to focus and do efficiently the work you are paid for? Realising this catch-22 situation, some companies have now a no email day policy.
(3-1) My main claim here, which is the title of this blog, is that social media does not contribute to innovation. It creates intense distraction and prevents people to think on their own. It weakens their skills for critical thinking, which is a sine qua non for innovation. If you can't have original thinking of your own, you'll just repeat what other people say.
The NESTA's Innovation Index reveals that construction firms spend in average 0.1% of their turnover in R&D. The CIOB survey, Innovation in Construction, reveals similar results.
The most surprising part of the survey is that most construction companies wait for government support before investing in R&D. In the current climate, it's a wrong organisation culture to have.
With construction projects being axed by the government, maybe it is time again to ask the question in the board room: Does our current business model still deliver the goods?
This is the research question of the paper "Retrench or Refresh" published by the accounting and management consulting firm Grant Thornton UK LLP. 60 senior executives of property and construction companies took part in the global survey. The findings, published in the report "A long, hard road ahead: Business model change in the UK property & construction sector", are interesting.