GBSLEP Chair points to opportunity for growth in area’s global reputation

Harnessing Birmingham’s rising global profile could help areas across the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership’s (GBSLEP) patch to boost their reputation internationally, according to Andy Street, Chair of the GBSLEP and Managing Director of John Lewis.

Andy Street

Andy Street, Chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

Speaking at Marketing Birmingham’s Commercial Partners Meeting last week, Mr Street said he believed that leveraging Birmingham’s brand would enable the city’s neighbouring areas to attract greater global attention. Street’s comments came as it was revealed that Marketing Birmingham had been asked by the GBSLEP to become its strategic marketing partner, supporting the delivery of the wider LEP geography’s messages to target national and international audiences.

Andy Street commented: “The attention the wider Birmingham area is attracting, both as a tourist and business destination, is gaining momentum. Record numbers of visitors and businesses are recognising what we have here and want to be part of it. It is up to us to make the most of that. By aligning our activity, particularly in international markets, we can bring more of the spotlight, and resulting business, to the area.

“The agreement we have with Marketing Birmingham will enable our member authorities to benefit more clearly from the work the company is doing to push Birmingham internationally.”

Neil Rami, Marketing Birmingham

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham, which operates the city’s leisure and business tourism programmes, Visit and Meet Birmingham, as well as inward investment programme, Business Birmingham, said:

“Birmingham’s international profile is growing, and with the support of partners across the LEP’s wider geography we have an opportunity to extend this further, bringing benefits to a wider sway of this part of the world.

“Some areas within the GBSLEP have their own clear identity and branding so this will be about using the most relevant in appropriate markets. Birmingham is known as a gateway. Many international visitors for example, come here before moving onto Shakespeare Country or the Cotswolds. Being known to be aligned to the city can be of value and we hope to work with the GBSLEP, local authorities and partners across the wider region to realise those benefits in the coming months.”

Business Birmingham already has a Memorandum of Understanding with UK Trade & Investment to be its point of contact for inward investment across the GBSLEP area. The programme, which has created 4,500 jobs since its inception in April 2011, has been working with city partners to create a clear strategy and develop the tools needed to attract inward investment in an increasingly competitive market.

The latest tools to be announced at the meeting of Marketing Birmingham’s Commercial Partners included a pilot Mobile Investment Fund (MIF) and a Business Catalyst support programme; both are designed to attract new investors and help these businesses create new jobs in the area. The £500,000 MIF fund backed by Birmingham City Council will provide financial support to help new investors – while the Business Catalyst package involves 14 local companies offering discounted or free introductory offers on everything from accommodation, PR support and recruitment and legal advice.

The meeting also reported on other campaigns delivered by Marketing Birmingham during the last six months, which have made a significant impact on the local economy. Visit Birmingham’s Christmas campaign, which promoted the city region’s retail offer during the festive season with organisations including VisitEngland, helped to raise Birmingham’s hotel occupancy levels to 85% in December 2012 – a 4% increase on 2011. Meet Birmingham’s expanded Ambassador programme works with local universities to attract new trade and academic conferences, and recently secured five high-profile events for the city.

Marketing Birmingham’s latest leisure tourism campaign showcases the city’s diverse cultural offer. Visit Birmingham’s ‘See More, Feel More’ campaign, designed to build on the 10 million visitors that come to Birmingham for arts and culture annually, is backed by the region’s cultural organisations with a range of local artists and performers, including musicians from the world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet, profiled in advertising, creative PR, digital and social media activity.

Rami added: “The value that our partners bring in attracting more people, events and investment into the Birmingham area cannot be underestimated. The city’s reputation for collaboration has become one of our key selling points. Not only has this enabled us to deliver successful work such as Visit Birmingham’s Christmas campaign; it demonstrates that our partners are committed to delivering economic growth, and creating new jobs, by providing comprehensive support and a warm welcome to new companies locating here.”

The city region’s profile with businesses and visitors both in the UK and overseas has increased. The number of international media pieces about Birmingham as a place to do business doubled in 2012/13. More than 2,000 press articles about the city were published as a result of Marketing Birmingham’s work – with an estimated global audience of 200 million people.