Recently in Enterprise Category
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.
Hello, it's a pleasure to be here in the West Midlands to lead our UK Trade and Investment team and help support companies in the region to internationalise. We're here to help and want to increase the support we give to companies to help them explore new markets and grow their exports in their current markets.
In the Autumn Statement, UKTI was given an increase in budget of £70 million per year. For the West Midlands, this means an additional seven people in the region supporting business from April, and a significant increase in the size and flexibility of the financial support we can give to exporters.
There is plenty of opportunity to trade, a market for everyone and support to get you there.
However, there's no doubt we face an enormous economic challenge. We've run a trade deficit nearly every year for the last 50 years and only one in five of our companies export, when the European average is one in four. We've got to shift the economy from one that's built on debt, to one that's built on trading and selling our goods overseas. There isn't another option.
In the West Midlands, our goal is to double exports from around £20 billions in 2012, to £40 billions by 2020. If we achieve these demanding targets, we will rebalance our economy and see growth driven by exports, jobs and innovation generated by companies challenged by the rigours of international trade.
I'm confident that the region is up to this challenge. Jaguar Land Rover, Carillion and JCB are brilliant companies, leading the way and breaking into new markets, including China.
A big part of my role will be to get the whole supply chain for these innovative companies to look at where they too can find new markets. West Midlands firms are exporting more to China than any other UK region. In the first nine months of last year, we exceeded the whole of the previous year's exports to China.
While our traditional markets such as Europe and the US have struggled as they, like us, have had to contend with reduced public spending and lack of credit to drive their economies, they still remain important to our export performance.
Further afield, I have seen first hand how UK companies can be successful in the more developed markets such as Australasia. I spent the last four years heading-up our teams in Australia and New Zealand where UK companies of all sizes are winning business and competing with the best international firms. There is plenty of demand for our goods and services out there.
There are also the opportunities provided by countries such as India, China, Brazil, and other fast growing markets such as Russia, Thailand and South Africa. These markets can be more challenging and companies often require additional support to understand the cultural and business environment. Language too can be seen as a barrier to trading with these countries, but there is support available to help companies overcome these difficulties.
We will continue to work hard to secure bigger slices of bigger contracts around the world for UK companies through our High Value Opportunities programme. I worked on one of these opportunities in Australia where the value of contracts to extract gas from Northern Australia are truly enormous and should be accessible to a wide range of companies in the oil and gas sector, but also in IT, catering, legal, finance, health and safety, general engineering and many others.
We will also need to reach into areas of the economy that we have not traditionally worked closely with. This includes getting more medium sized businesses exporting. These businesses are at the heart of our economy and often require different forms of support to grow internationally. We have recently recruited staff to focus on this sector of business and, with the help of partners we are working hard to ensure we can deliver the support they need, when they need it, and in the way that has most impact for their business.
We can support firms of all shapes and sizes - whether they make things or deliver services. We will develop services for those companies who export through the internet, helping them to export more strategically. Leading the way for this type of business is success story Bean2Bed which makes world-class products in the West Midlands and sells them across the globe. One of the company's directors happens to be my next door neighbour so I don't need to go very far to get feedback on the support we give to companies like this.
I would welcome a dialogue with the business community to find out how we can help you be more successful overseas. We need to hear from you so we can ensure we remain focussed on the needs of business.
Challenge me, and UKTI to deliver what you need to grow. I have set up a discussion on the LinkedIn group below. I would really like to hear from you.
Paul Noon, OBE, took up the role of West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment in December 2012. Paul's most recent post was in Sydney, Australia, where he was Director of Trade for Australia and New Zealand for four years. There Paul worked with hundreds of companies, many from the West Midlands, to support them to grow their export businesses in Australasia. He also supported Australian companies to invest in the UK.
Sydney was Paul's fifth overseas posting after Damascus, Syria; Bonn, Germany; Wellington, New Zealand and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also worked in several departments of the Foreign Office in London.
When the government announced it had commissioned an independent Review on Apprenticeships, led by entrepreneur Doug Richard, the general feeling was 'not another Review' - the Holt Review was still due to be published and the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee was still undergoing its inquiry into Apprenticeships.
Like most people I don't feel comfortable about expecting young people to take out loans to cover their higher education costs.
The blow has been a little softened through the rise in the salary threshold triggering payback, moving from £15k per annum to £21k in the new system.
Graduate employment is higher than non-graduate employment, at 85.5% compared to 73.3%, over the last six years.
There's a slew of surveys showing that graduates earn more over their working lives than non-graduates. The last one I saw showed people with degrees earned an average of £12k a year more than non-graduates over the past decade.
As Lord Digby Jones said last Friday at the 'Made in the Midlands' Awards hosted at Birmingham City University's Faculty for Technology, Engineering and the Environment at Millennium Point, 'the economic debate has so far been all about cutting spending; no one is talking about earning.'
And of course with GDP figures out later this week our economic growth challenge will remain front of mind.
'Let the Chinese do the commodity stuff,' he exhorted. 'We need to focus on value added, innovative, quality and branded goods and services. We want the Indians and the Chinese to get rich so they can buy Brand Britain.
How to protect your business from cyber attack and understanding how the new Bribery Act works
Two of the comments I hear all too frequently when I'm talking to businesses are: "my IT systems are completely secure" and "there's no point doing business in this or that country unless you're willing to pay a bribe."
Both statements are not only wrong, but in the current business climate, potentially very dangerous.
The announcement from Government on plans for employment reform will still leave smaller employers in North Wales wondering when they will be able to spend more time running their businesses and less worrying about the web of legal obligations which surrounds them. The Business Department has accepted the case for change although some parts of the announcement have a green feel - recycled.
John Cridland, CBI Director General called mid-sized businesses (MSBs*) "a forgotten army" saying that "now is the time to unlock their potential".
Up until recently, most of the public debate has been about SMEs or multi-nationals - and for good reason. The success of our large companies, like JLR and JCB in international markets is vital to the success of our economy.
While at the other end of the scale, SMEs account for around 53% of UK exports - another cornerstone of our future growth.
But what about this "forgotten army" of middle sized companies?
Over 20 years Mike Brown, Professor of Corporate Reputation and Strategy at Birmingham City Business School, has been surveying senior business executives to assess how much they esteem their peers.
His survey, 'Britain's Most Admired Companies', is an assessment of executives' perceptions of 'corporate reputation'.
Speaking recently at the Birmingham Made Me Design EXPO Mike Brown commented on how reputation is now one of the key intangibles which our business executives are managing to a greater extent than ever.
In most instances, he noted, around 75% of companies value is being derived from intangibles.
Philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, described by Updike as 'so perfect a crank and hermit saint', is renowned for having said, 'I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.'
Even in the simplest places chairs are ubiquitous. And well-designed chairs can change our everyday experience of life for the better.
Thanks to designers such as Prof Richard Snell at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, the Midlands continues to play a noteworthy role in chair design.