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Now here is a mystery.
Why are there no soaps set in the Midlands? London has East Enders, Manchester 'Corrie' and Liverpool has 'Hollyoaks'. We don't even have any of the constructed reality programmes set in the Midlands like 'TOWIE, 'Geordie Shores' or 'Desperate Scousewives'.
I have no idea why this is, though not sure it's much of a loss. But did you know that watching the soaps is can help build strong brands.
This was the message from both the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister Lord Green at a major Summit on exporting held in London last week.
Launching 'Exporting for Growth' in the UK, PM David Cameron, HSBC Chief Executive Brian Robertson and PWC Chair Ian Powell all spoke extremely supportively of boosting the UK's export platform. Nick Baird, UK Trade & Investment's Chief Executive launched some new initiatives including teaming up with founding Dragons' Den panellist Doug Richard and Yell to get 3,500 businesses into workshops all over the country to ensure they are able to exploit the global opportunities offered by the internet.
The PM's message was clear - we need to excel in trade if we are to grow the UK economy at a time when global economies are under huge pressures. The challenge is to get more SME's exporting and to do so, there needs to be greater engagement between the public and private sectors in supporting and developing our exporters.
Here in the West Midlands we have a proud history of international trade. Many of our companies are already doing well in international markets with innovative, cutting edge products - but we need our existing exporters to export more; and more companies to start exporting.
At the Summit there were over 400 representatives from intermediary organisations - banks, lawyers, accountants, consultants, trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, etc discussing how we can do this.
Nationally a number of promising initiatives are already underway such as:
- HSBC has introduced a Business Thinking programme including support for Trade Missions and Mentoring for SME exporters working with UK Trade & Investment.
- Barclays is working with UK Trade & Investment, utilising their customer base and expertise in Sub Saharan Africa to promote exports.
- Lloyds is launching a programme of Export Mentors working with the Manufacturing Technologies Association and UK Trade & Investment.
But this sort of cooperation should not be limited to the "big boys" in London. There is much we can do at the local level. Here in the West Midlands we will be holding our own Exporting for Growth Summit on 28th February for regional SMEs and intermediaries.
In the meantime if anybody has any thoughts or ideas on how UK Trade & Investment in the West Midlands might work more with local partners to help exporters I would be delighted to hear from them!
If you'd like more details of the announcements made at the Exporting for Growth Summit last week, have a look at the website: http://www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/uktihome/media/item/217400.html
For 127 years, the Coventry Building Society has quietly got on with its business of being a mutual lender, enabling many people in Coventry and the region to achieve their dream of owning their own home, while offering good rates for savers.
This mutual approach delivered superior financial performance and value for members through the recent financial crisis. And unlike some other mutuals, like my own West Brom, the Coventry avoided getting sucked into dodgy commercial property investments.
Without many of us realising it, the Coventry has grown from being a local success story to becoming something of a mutual powerhouse. With 1.5 million members and over Â£21 billion in assets, it now ranks as the third biggest UK mutual.
This was meant to be the big one for Labour ahead of the General election, barring any further financial sector crises. As many analysts have noted, Darling is walking a tight-rope - needing to convince the markets that the government has a credible plan to get the deficit under control, while at the same time not scaring off voting with cuts and trying to convince them that they'll be better off with Labour.
There was a good analogy on the BBC website today; Darling's team is 3-1 down with 10 minutes to go and he's been asked to take a penalty: "If he gets it right, Labour won't necessarily win. But if he misses - in other words, if he announces measures that somehow backfire, politically or economically - he could lose the match".
In fact we had a classic pre-election budget report - put off what you can. Especially when it comes to announcing cuts that is. Perhaps the best thing about listening to today's PBR was Vince Cable's response. He called it a good budget for "bingo and boilers", and said that Darling had failed on fairness.
Don't get me wrong. There were some welcome, small measures in the PBR; some (limited) new money for green technologies and support for electric vehicles and also a boiler scrappage scheme. These were not expensive but still welcome. However they didn't really go very far. Is this really going to help rebalance the economy and build a green manufacturing future? Not that much, to be honest.
Despite the wish of many a Euro citizen let alone Brits to see rates further cut it didn't need that much imagination to see that both the European Central Bank and MPC would likely leave rates on hold at 1% and 0.5% respectively.
Blogged by David Bailey and John Clancy
You may have missed it, but while you and I stump up the cash for a taxpayers' bail out of the banks (and whilst their greedy execs still have their snouts in the trough for yet more fat-cat bonuses), the issue that first undermined public trust in the banks has continued to rumble on - namely unlawful, unfair Bank Charges.
Did you know, however, that even as the government places the first priority in getting the nation through the recession as being the test of 'fairness', the banks are using your money and mine (as taxpayers) to try to prove that, actually, they have a right to be unfair? Hmmm, yes it came as surprise to me as well.
The Bankers were rather hoping that the government and the rest of us had forgotten about that one, thank you, what with all the other awful stuff they've had to deal with in the last 6 months in particular (must be tough at the top for a banker, eh?)
As we write, the Banks we have bailed out are collectively spending millions of pounds on a court case fighting the Office of Fair Trading (the OFT) on the other side (also, of course, funded by you and me) to get the courts (also funded by you and me) to say that the bank charges they have been levying for the last 7 years are not subject to the test of 'fairness'.
More specifically they are spending our money to get the courts to rule that they can continue to charge what they like and that fairness need not enter, and need never to have entered, into it. "I'm alright Jack" seems the line as they collectively stick two fingers up at the taxpayer and the government.
(Blogged by David Bailey and Caroline Chapain)
This week we launched our report into what has happened to the MG Rover workers who lost their jobs so suddenly back in 2005. The research was a joint effort by The Work Foundation and the Birmingham Business School and was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield, kindly hosted the event in Westminster.
A short webcast summarising the research can be found here. (you need to scroll down and click on 'download swf file').
What we found was that three years on from the historic collapse of MG Rover in April 2005, 90% of workers who lost their jobs have found new employment, but most have taken deep pay cuts.
We interviewed over 200 workers out of the 6,300 workers ex-Rover workers who lost their jobs when the Longbridge plant closed, and found two thirds have suffered wage falls. Overall, on average wages had fallen by ÃÂ£5,640 per year in real terms. A third of the former workers reported an increase in their salaries. Those out of work the longest suffered the largest drops in income.
My colleague over on Lifestyle (look to the right and scroll down), Jo Ind is having a bad week understanding the financial news.
Believe me Jo, you're not the only one. I read the newspaper three times yesterday and I still don't get this 'short selling' stuff. Thank goodness for children's tv.
News last week that house prices fell by 2.5% last month (and 5% in the West Midlands) was probably the moment the penny dropped for most people that the credit crunch really is serious.
Indeed, the sub-prime fuelled financial crisis engulfing the world is seen by many as the worst since the 1930s. The US Federal Reserve has had to organise a bail-out of one major US bank and the government there will later this year inject a $150 billion fiscal stimulus package into the economy in an attempt to get it moving (and let's leave aside the fact that the absurd Stability and Growth Pact would probably constrain most Eurozone governments from engineering such a fiscal boost).
Britain shares some of the worst features of the US economy (a house price bubble, some reckless bank lending and a consumption binge that has seen savings rates fall and the trade deficit widen), albeit perhaps in a less intense form.
I spend much of working life trying to keep track of two key strands to the industrial and financial life of this country.
Wearing my Birmingham Post automotive correspondent's hat I report on a manufacturing sector that, despite what the cynics and doom-mongers say, is still a vital element of the manufacturing base both of the West Midlands and the UK as a whole as well as the regional and national economy.
There are some out there who simply cannot understand why Britain is still making motor cars in the 21st century.
Yes, we have lost Longbridge, Ryton and Browns Lane as major carmaking sites. But Jaguar and Land Rover (albeit perhaps soon in Indian ownership) remain at the heart of the industry.