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Conference aims to show the way for the West Midlands recovery

“Financing recovery....funding innovation and investment” is the focus of a major conference organised by Business Voice WM, Forrest Research, Aston Business School, Birmingham Business School and the Fair Finance Consortium.

It takes place on Thursday, October 29th at Aston Business School and will feature a heavyweight list of national politicians, senior academics, commercial banks, venture capitalists, and leading economists.

Representatives from both the Government and Opposition will present their policy frameworks to fund the recovery and secure finance for expansion at the all-day event.  The conference, which will be free to attend, will attempt to identify the actions needed to get liquidity flowing again for regional businesses.  Around 200 corporates will attend.  It is part of the continuing campaign by BVWM to mitigate the impact of the recession.

The West Midlands economy, equivalent to £92 billion and contributing close to 8% of total UK output, has been the most badly affected UK region, with one in five of 16-25 year olds out of work.  This is in part due to the fact that in the region of 60% of Gross Regional Product (GRP) is estimated to originate from the private, largely SME, sector. 

The impact of downturn has been exacerbated by the preponderance of the property, manufacturing and retail sectors in the regional economic structure (cumulatively over 50% of GRP) which have all been particularly hard hit.  Although, the latest West Midlands Purchasing Managers Index (next release: October 12th) is expected to register some improvement in manufacturing output, the recovery remains fragile. 

The recession has also directly impacted on the ceramics sector and the economy of north Staffordshire. There have been changes in ownership such as at Waterford Wedgwood and Spode/Royal. The number of people employed in the brick industry is at an historic low. At the start of 2009, 90 per cent of brick factories were temporarily closed or on short time working. It is anticipated that brick sales in 2009 will be only 60 per cent of those in 2008.  In terms of the property and construction sector there has also been a steep decline in activity. Total workloads and new enquiries have slipped with profit margins under heavy pressure.

The Advantage West Midlands sponsored Advantage Transition Fund has proved vital in helping keep SMEs afloat, and replicates similar successful initiatives elsewhere in the UK and the wider EU.  Whitehall plans to phase out regional transition loan funds will seriously disadvantage the West Midlands and the robustness of the economic recovery.

Rob Dobson, Senior Economist at Markit said:

“The West Midlands Purchasing Managers Index showed that the region was one of the hardest hit during this downturn. As the cycle enters its recovery phase, managing the upturn in the region will be just as important as the reaction to the downturn. This timely conference will play an important role in understanding the unique circumstances the West Midlands faces and identifying appropriate responses as the recession turns to recovery.”

Forrest Research Director, Paul Forrest said:

“The global economic downturn has impacted differentially on international economies, and the varied regional responses within the EU potentially put the West Midlands at a disadvantage.  Furthermore, the structure of this downturn is markedly different from previous UK recessions, and new policy initiatives will be essential if the West Midlands is to maintain its position as a top 20 European economy and sustain international competitiveness.”  

Conservative Shadow Minister for International Trade and Development Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP, recognises that:

“99% of businesses in the UK are SMEs and they will be the engine room of our economic recovery.  To run smoothly however this engine needs the fuel of capital and credit.  From cutting corporate tax and payroll tax for small firms to freeing businesses from the shackles of regulation and rethinking the way we support our exporters I will talk of how the Conservatives will help British Businesses lead the way to recovery.”

Senior Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, said

“As one of the more dynamic and innovative regional economies, the real issue is not how the West Midlands can expand, but how to facilitate that expansion thorough the provision of adequate working capital, sufficient investment funding and a policy framework that stimulates, rather than constrains, manufacturing output.  Although the impact of the recent economic contraction has been global, successful responses have been regional and local.”

Professor Andy Mullineux, Global Financial Research Group, Birmingham Business School, stated: 

“We are at a crossroads.  Bank lending will be more restricted and more expensive in future as a result of re-regulation.  How can a sustained recovery be financed?  This timely conference aims to provide some answers with the help of all its participants.”

Dr Ben Clegg, Aston Business School, highlights the opportunities for support from regional business schools:  

“EREBUS is a government funded initiative intending to catalyse academia and industry into solving challenging business problems. One of its priority areas is finance. If you are in the world of finance and have a challenging problem, please contact the EREBUS team, as we could fund your research!”

While Paul Kalinauckas, The Fair Finance Consortium and Business Voice WM Board Member said:

“As companies are experiencing an upturn the need to obtain finance for new orders becomes more acute. Insufficient cash flow to re-stock means going to the bank for a loan but if they have not yet regained their appetite for lending and still consider loans to SME’s as too risky, they can turn to Fair Finance Consortium members for help”

Other Speakers include; Professor Edward Peck, Birmingham University; Professor Michael West, Aston Business School; Arun Dhunna, Abbey; the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Peter Ibbetson; businessman Mohammad Nazir – who is also the Business Voice WM lead on Islamic finance; Norman Price, West Midlands Finance Forum and Dr Pam Waddell of Birmingham Science City.

Topics include economic trends, business sentiment, credit, bank lending, finance for SMEs, and risk capital.

To register for this free conference please contact Business Voice WM on 0121 245 0140 or email on info@businessvoicewm.org.uk

Download the event flyer for more information >

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