Corporate Finance: Agency Sets Sights on High-Tech Diversity
Dresser, Guy, The Birmingham Post (England)
The West Midlands new regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, has set itself the clear aim of diversifying the local economy into high technology.
It is a laudable aim because for too long the region has talked about it without really getting anywhere.
And the world of corporate finance can help in this quest rather more than might at first be thought likely.
For financiers are continually reinventing the industrial and commercial landscape, with a deal which consolidates 'old industry' here and expansion aid which supports the development of 'new industry' there.
Birmingham of course missed out on the microelectronics boom thanks some would say to a misguided attitude that the region's core strengths in manufacturing and engineering would ensure its long-term economic survival.
That attitude has gone at last and been replaced with an altogether more welcoming approach to new industries.
Scarred by the experience of seeing the North-east gain at the Midlands' expense, the city council's enlightened approach to planning has seen numerous technology parks spring up around Birmingham and many companies move into them.
In employment terms the high-tech sector is tiny. Just three per cent of the working population - 11,000 people in all. But it is growing fast and though not yet a Silicon City, Birmingham already ranks as the biggest centre for IT/telecoms jobs outside London.
Traditional industries remain the biggest local employers. With 106,000 people working in engineering and manufacturing and 105,000 in the public sector, there is little prospect of these sectors being eclipsed overnight.
But slightly further down the scale can be seen the evidence of Birmingham's changing economy.
Ninety thousand professional, white collar jobs in banking, insurance, finance, accountancy and law, and 85,000 distribution, leisure, hotels and catering jobs total a combined 175,000 jobs, a clear challenge to the status quo. …