As Advantage West Midlands prepares to close its doors, former Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin explains why he is so proud of its legacy.
I had to laugh when Gavin Williamson, got to his feet and invited the Prime Minister to welcome Jaguar Land Rover’s new £350 million plant in his South Staffordshire constituency.
JLR’s investment is, as the Prime Minister replied, “excellent news for the West Midlands and for British manufacturing”.
But they both failed to mention that the investment was only taking place after ten years hard work by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, who bought the land, developed the site and worked with the company to plan the new plant.
And without AWM lobbying for government-backed loans in 2008, the company could well have gone under in the downturn.
It was the same story at an economic conference I spoke at in Coventry a few weeks ago when a local councillor praised his local economic partnership by highlighting a series of achievements which had all been kicked off by AWM.
And I was really surprised to hear George Osborne boasting in his Spending Review about the redevelopment of New Street Station which would never have happened without the agency’s leadership and expertise.
As Mick Laverty and his colleagues lock the doors at Priestly Wharf for the last time this week, people in the West Midlands should offer their thanks for everything he and his brilliant team have achieved over the last decade.
The Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty Park near Rugby could have a huge impact on the expansion of modern hi-tech manufacturing in the Midlands, but would never have got off the drawing-board without AWM.
Fort Dunlop stood empty for years but AWM got Europe’s largest regeneration project under way, bringing this iconic building back into use and creating hundreds of jobs
The Edgar Street Grid in Hereford, the new phase of Keele Science Park, finance for the new airport runway. Huge, complex projects that would never have happened if AWM had not unblocked them.
They helped get new college buildings under way in Stoke, Sandwell and Birmingham, developed sites right across the region in places like Hereford, Redditch, Worcester, Stafford and Telford and helped finance the redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, a world famous cultural and tourist attraction.
They won inward investment from countries and companies right around the world.
More than 160,000 people have got better skills. 140,000 new jobs and 10,000 new businesses were brought to the region.
Don’t just take my word for their achievements.
In 2010 the National Audit Office rated AWM England’s best performing RDA. The agency also won the Midlands Excellence Awards. Independent evaluation showed AWM generated over £8 for every £1 it spent. And 96p in every pound went straight to front-line investment.
And when the region was hit by a crisis, who stepped in to help?