The Jaguar Land Rover success story shows the West Midlands can deliver.
What a turnaround from a company once on its knees, which, had it not been bought by Indian group Tata, would probably have been sold to private equity and, most likely, would have collapsed by now.
Profits have improved in many companies. It is proof of what I have always advocated – long termism, investment, funding for research and development and partnership between workforce and management. Testing times continue.
The latest Purchasing Managers’ Index showed overall manufacturing activity contracting at its sharpest rate for three years.
Surveys go up and down. This has come in the midst of the euro crisis and is understandable.
But when I visit industries in the UK and around the world I do not get the same impression.
Yes, British industry has the perennial problem of under-capitalisation and City short-termism.
No, we no longer have an industrial relations problem. Indeed, we have very benign industrial relations – so talk of finding easier ways of sacking workers, as in the recent Beecroft Report, is inappropriate. Do we want to go back to Victorian times?
It is vital to be passionate about your business and products.
For the Midlands, producing enough skilled workers has proved difficult. There is no single magic bullet.
But now Warwick University is to develop the WMG Academy for Young Engineers, backed by JLR, one of several new University Technical College projects approved by the Government. These offer a renaissance for our skills base.
Let’s hope our politicians can weigh in too, particularly now a new dawn is in the offing following Labour and Sir Albert Bore taking control of Birmingham City Council. Sir Albert will provide great leadership. The LEPs must provide economic leadership.
There remains the odd hiccup – JLR has to convince workers at Castle Bromwich to embrace further productivity change. But, given time and planned investment, Castle Bromwich can do well.
We should be optimistic. Industry is more competitive. Hopefully we can restore Midlands manufacturing to prominence.
* Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group