’Second City’ aims for commonwealth gold

The Commonwealth Games, held in Birmingham from July 28-August 8, provided individuals, teams and nations with memorable moments of sporting success.

netball commonwealth games

32 July Netball at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 - photo from the official Birmingham 2022 page.

Now Britain's 'second city' - along with the rest of the West Midlands - is hoping the legacy of the games will provide it with memorable moments of economic success.

Coinciding with the athletes' physical endeavours on land and in the water, a $33 million Business and Tourism Programme (BTP) was launched aimed at attracting international investment and visitors to the region.

Boris Johnson, the outgoing prime minister, described the games as "another fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of Britain on a global stage".

He added: "Not only will we be celebrating sporting success, we will also be strengthening the crucial ties between our 72 (Commonwealth) nations and territories – bringing businesses and governments from across the world together to encourage trade and boost economic growth that will leave a lasting legacy for years to come."

The BTP has already notched up its first success, supporting the expansion in Birmingham - and creating 200 new jobs - at the offices of Firstsource, a Mumbai-based company specialising in process management, which first launched in the city at the start of the year when it created 300 jobs.

Rajiv Malhotra, head of European business at Firstsource, said: "The West Midlands is the UK's largest hub for regional, professional and financial services business. The unrivalled support for rapidly expanding businesses made the region and the city of Birmingham an obvious choice for our new operation.

"We are delighted with our partnerships with education and investment organisations in the region and look forward to further collaborations. The new training approach will help Firstsource access a wider talent pool and unlock tremendous potential to build digital customer experience hubs for our clients."

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, described the investment as a "true vote of confidence in the region as a global hub for businesses looking to trade, innovate and grow".

He added: "Building on India's strong track record of foreign direct investment into the region, these 200 new jobs are brilliant news for Birmingham and I look forward to seeing Firstsource go from strength to strength at their new UK headquarters."
On the eve of the games, the BTP organised a Commonwealth Business Forum, which attracted heads of state as well as international business leaders.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi described the forum as "a major gathering of companies from across the world" which brought with it "amazing economic opportunity".

He told the Worcester Observer: “Some of those businesses are already investing in the West Midlands and some are considering it – many can see the potential of our region.

“The Commonwealth Games has already brought £800 millions-worth of (public sector) investment and it has unlocked billions more."

The tourism sector also made the most of opportunities offered by the games with the VisitBritain organisation hosting more than 40 top travel buyers, tour operators and trade media from Australia, Canada and India on visits to the area.

Those visits, arranged in partnership with the West Midlands Growth Company, included river cruises exploring Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, culinary excursions in the heart of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle, and trips to the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, as well as visits to the games themselves.

Commonwealth Games Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "The Commonwealth Games are an excellent opportunity to showcase Birmingham and the Midlands to the world. Our activity working with international buyers and tourism companies is a crucial part of our legacy plans to ensure the benefits of the games are felt in the region for many years to come."

Neil Rami, CEO of the West Midlands Growth Company, added: “There is surely no better way to truly get to know a destination than by experiencing it in person. Working with our VisitBritain colleagues in the UK and across the Commonwealth, we have created several exciting and varied multi-day West Midlands itineraries for our international trade and media visitors, which show off the very best of the region’s cultural, culinary, accommodation and sporting highlights.”

The success of the games has also prompted Birmingham to bid to become the host city for eight other international sporting and cultural events, including next year's Eurovision Song Contest, which is to be staged in the UK.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are a brilliant launchpad for the West Midlands to establish itself as the region of choice for major events of the future and to show the world what we can do.

“We have a great group of partners here including the local councils and the West Midlands Growth Company, who have a shared ambition and determination to develop this sector of our economy, and build our worldwide reputation.

“Through the Business and Tourism Programme, we are showcasing the best of the region to the world - and are already considering exciting live event opportunities. So the coming years are full of real promise for the West Midlands."

However, John Bryson, professor of enterprise and competitiveness at the University of Birmingham, says the staging of the games is only the latest phase of a programme of transformation that began in the city a decade ago.

Writing on TheConversation website, he cites examples such as HSBC's decision in 2015 to build the national green headquarters of its UK personal and business bank in Birmingham; the 2016 decision by the city council to demolish Birmingham’s old Central Library and build a mixed office and retail devlopment on the 17-acre site; and the allocation to the West Midlands this spring of £1.05 billion from the government's City-Region Sustainable Transport Settlements initiative.

"Birmingham’s role in hosting the Commonwealth Games is exciting," says Prof Bryson. "But it should not distract from the city’s innovative and experimental approach to creating healthy neighbourhoods by achieving a new kind of balance between profitability and sustainability.

"Local planning and policy interventions are focused on making Birmingham one of the UK’s most liveable cities."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted, July articles. Subscribe now to Think Global People magazine and read more from David on free trade agreements and their implications for business, international managers and global mobility


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