Driving Innovation with a Partnership Approach; JACK GLONEK: A New Regeneration Mindset Is Evolving in Birmingham, Melding Inward Investment, Economic Development and Employment Issues. Ian Halstead Met the Council Officer Tasked with Delivering the Radical Agenda
Byline: Ian Halstead
It has to be said that meeting Jack Glonek is a serious setback for cynicism. It's not unknown for senior people, in both public and private sector - particularly those involved with mega-projects which will transform a city's skyline - to succumb to moments of vainglory.
Subconsciously of course, but their of.ces do often appear designed by Central Casting.
An award is parked casually on a bookcase, a BlackBerry squawks noisily to emphasise just how busy its owner is, and a pushy PA is an absolute must, so schedule reminders and updates can be trilled through the open door.
Tiptoe into Jack's of.ce though, perched high above Birmingham in Alpha Tower, and you spot a dusty .ve-a-side trophy, an old Stockport Council plan, a Rubik's cube, and a jar of Maxwell House.
He even nips out to make a brew, rather than wait for a junior to pour scalding-hot gloop from a machine into the council's best china,.
It's not that Jack hasn't had time to acquire the trappings of power, as it's three years since he arrived in Birmingham.
In the New Year, he will drive forward the new strategy with purpose, when Locate in Birmingham and Marketing Birmingham begin operating from their shared base in Millennium Point.
So what he has been doing since he was lured from Greater Manchester, as assistant director in charge of investment, enterprise and employment; a post devised to deliver a more sophisticated approach to regeneration?.
"Understanding the new agenda was relatively easy, but it was very challenging to reach a position from where it could be delivered," admits Jack.
"In 2006, Birmingham was still a way behind other places. Things really were not joined-up, so there was a signi.cant amount of catch-up work, and it did take longer than anyone imagined to get all the foundations in place. As one example, we didn't have a coordinated approach to business support, but now we have a pounds 31 million programme, involving such partners as Business Link, the universities, and the Learning & Skills Council."
Jack's portfolio has also swelled signi.-cantly.
He now leads the council on all Science City matters, including the 2010 Science Festival and the development of the Birmingham and Aston-based science parks, and co-chairs a new group involving Birmingham's three universities, and Warwick University.
Why was the new approach needed though, given the scale of inward investment projects seen throughout the city centre in recent years? "Property-led regeneration has been very successful for Birmingham, and long may that continue," says Jack.
"However, there was a feeling - the logic for which has been underlined during recession - that we needed a more intellectual approach to regeneration, in which economic development could also encompass a skills agenda.
"I was very keen to take on the Science City role, because as a council we need to innovate, in the way we operate and how we procure. We also need to drive innovation forward, through partnership working with others."
Three years of standing in the shadows, working to persuade others that the new way was the best, even if the path forward would be uncertain, clearly required signi.cant reserves of tenacity.
It's a quality which evidently runs deep in the Glonek genes; given the backdrop to the wartime romance which saw his parents meet in a battle.eld tent whilst .ghting for the Polish Free Army, as the Allies marched north to liberate Rome..
It all sounds positively Hollywood, especially given the Italian setting, but was anything but, as Jack explains.
"My dad was a soldier in the Polish army when the con.ict began, but was shipped out to a prison camp in Siberia, after Poland was defeated.
"My mum had been sent to a work camp in Austria, at the age of 17. She later joined the 217th Transport Regiment, he signed up with the Polish Second Corps, and they both ended up in Italy. …