Page 2: The development of the West Midlands
The West Midlands has a proud industrial history, being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in this country; iron and steel, bicycle and motor vehicle manufacture, the rail and aircraft industries, all forms of engineering, pottery and many others. These industries are still important, as are the skills of the people involved, but today we live in a more diverse economy, in which:
- the new industrial age of the microchip has transformed
- industrial processes
- services are as important as manufacturing
- women make up 50of the workforce.
The way we make goods today is different from in the past and the type of goods required by the market has changed.
The West Midlands has a number of existing strengths to build on, including:
- it is the UK's manufacturing 'capital' - with a wide variety of global brands and world-class firms
- there are excellent universities and numerous research establishments to fuel the commercialisation of innovation and creativity
- it is a cosmopolitan region with vibrant, multi-ethnic and multi-faith communities
- there are a broad range of cultural and sporting 'icons' like the Royal Shakespeare Company, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Ryder Cup at the Belfry and the Ironbridge World Heritage site
- at its heart lies the international city Birmingham, along with Birmingham International Airport and the National Exhibition Centre (NEC)
- the central UK location makes it attractive to businesses serving the rest of the UK and overseas markets.
At the same time it has to face a number of challenges. For example, the over-reliance upon traditional industries, including the motor industry shown to be at risk when BMW announced its sale of the Rover Group. There have also been redundancies in the ceramics and rubber industries prompting a long hard look at ways in which the region can diversify and modernise.