The future of Birmingham print is largely dependent upon the plans to make the city the centre of the Midlands economic “powerhouse”.
There is now a move to challenge the development of the “northern powerhouse” and the continued growth and magnetism of London and the south-east.
Seven local authorities in the West Midlands are coming together to combine their activities on driving the economy and co-ordinating major investment.
The local authorities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton are combining their resources for working with business and developing the regional economy.
The details of the scheme should be ratified by parliament by next April.
This will have repercussions for Birmingham print companies and could result in new opportunities to service the increased demand for all forms of business or promotional print.
The area is historically the “workshop of the world.” The region is responsible for 10.5% of UK exports despite only having 6.6% of the UK population.
Last year the West Midlands secured 174 foreign investments which generated 10,600 new jobs – a 10% rise.
A large part of the growth is linked with the historical strength in the automotive industries. There is expansion planned at the Hams Hall BMW factory enabling the plant to produce the company’s next generation of engines.
This has secured the long term future of the site and also resulted in the firm trebling the number of apprentices working at the plant.
This will automatically be a boost to the supply chain. Up to 28,000 jobs are expected to be created in the automotive supply chain in the UK over the next five years according to the latest research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
This is good news for many of our own local Birmingham print customers who are automotive component manufacturers.
Chinese automotive firm Changan Automobile is relocating its UK head office to Birmingham Business Park as part of wider expansion plans that will see almost 200 more employees.
Plans have also been submitted to breathe new life into the historic Belmont works in Eastside. The factory premises would be turned into commercial space for SME’s and business start-ups.
There are also plans for the latest phase of expansion of the Birmingham City University. Their £260million move is to the city centre campus in Eastside. The six story canal side development , on the corner of Curzon Street and Cardigan Street is due to open in 2017.
But perhaps the most significant impact on the Birmingham print companies has been the surge in local tourism and visitor numbers.
With the rugby world cup helping to boost numbers in the last few months, these shopping areas have witnessed unprecedented footfall which is great news for the Birmingham print businesses.
Retail clients make up a large proportion of our customers. With the ever-increasing demand for “Flash” sales to respond to competitor or online retailers – there is a need for quick printing for all forms of promotional printed products.
Whether it is posters, leaflets, fliers, floor or desk-mats – retailers are increasingly fighting for the attention of consumers and enticing them into the shop with Special Offers or promotions.
Attracting consumers results in a growth of hospitality outlets – from cafes and restaurants to wine bars and hotels. All of whom need printing products on a regular basis.
Longer term there is the impact that the HS2 development might have on business. Birmingham remains at the centre of the public and road transport system and location gives it a significant competitive advantage.
Many of our online print customers are London-based organisations in the financial services sector and their proximity to our production centre would mean same day delivery for the printing of important documents or printed training materials.
The Birmingham print businesses will need to adapt their product offerings to these trends and like their counterparts in the south-east of England will need to use location to their advantage.
The local authorities have not always inspired confidence – and the sad management of the new Birmingham Library demonstrates that they are lacking in basic commercial common sense at times.
However, there is a feeling of confidence at the moment that is filtering through to the Birmingham print community.
We will see more work with suppliers to the motor trade, the hospitality market and the financial services sector.
The future looks good!