A “drive, strive and thrive” mentality is nudging the UK out of recession – with the West Midlands at the forefront of recovery.
The upbeat assessment of the national and regional economy came from prominent banker David Richardson, regional managing director for Lloyds Banking Group, awarded Birmingham Future’s Inspiring Leader accolade earlier this year.
Mr Richardson said: “We are seeing some signs that business is a little more confident down the line. Birmingham has done so much better in this recession that it did 20-odd years ago relative to other places.
“Business reacted earlier this time. The relationship between employers and unions have been so much more flexible this time around.
“People are finding export markets that they didn’t need to find seven or eight years ago. It’s all about drive, strive and thrive. It’s about driving efficiency and innovation, and striving for new markets.
“I have been in Birmingham for 10 years and I see a sense of optimism in the city that perhaps I have not seen in that time.”
Mr Richardson, who addressed this week’s Liberal Democrat conference on Lloyds’ lending initiatives to the manufacturing sector, cited regional success stories such as Jaguar Land Rover, automotive supplier Sertec and Salts Heathcare.
“These businesses are businesses that are going to create jobs. Everyone runs away with the idea that people can’t do manufacturing in this country any more.
“Difficult times have forced people to look at how they innovate, how they look at overseas markets. Twenty years ago, it was an economic recession – this was more of a financial recession.
“The economy is stagnant but stable. This time around, we are going to nudge our way out of recession.”
But Mr Richardson warned that consumer spending remained depressed and the housing market in the doldrums. “Consumer spending does better when you see a bit of house price inflation. Once house prices go up, you are more likely to buy a new car.”
He cautioned against early rises in interest rates. “Rates will shift, but there are no people out there saying that when they do move, the cost of money will be prohibitive.”