The Work of Advantage West Midlands

The evening meeting on 21st July saw members welcoming Marie Greer, responsible at Advantage West Midlands for its Staffordshire schemes. Advantage West Midlands is one of the Regional Development Agencies set up by the Department of Trade and Industry to promote economic development.

Marie explained that the Agency got involved helping to create jobs through support to building projects as well as promoting training and retraining programmes designed to improve working skills. All this was designed to improve the economic prosperity of the West Midlands, particularly areas of high unemployment. She stressed however that the Agency doesn't run projects itself, but works with the private sector and local government, who take the lead. As her handout says, "We help transform the West Midlands' economy and create a better place in which to invest, work, learn, visit and live." Its annual budget from Government is 300 millions which, Marie told us, generates 100 billions of investment.

In Lichfield currently, their main project is the redevelopment of City Wharf, where they have led the land assembly element prior to the scheme proper, which will be implemented by Redrow Homes. Advantage West Midlands has powers to compulsorily acquire land and that has been an important factor at the City Wharf site. The scheme itself will lead to the redevelopment of the site for housing and offices. Elsewhere, they have financed improvements at the National Memorial Arboretum and provided some support at the Lichfield Campus of Staffs University. They are also working with the Lichfield Bower Committee to find them a new base, once the City Wharf is redeveloped.

Predictably, however, their priorities in Staffordshire are elsewhere, in areas of higher unemployment such, where they have established six regeneration zones which together contain half of Staffordshire's unemployment and two thirds of its long term unemployment. They have also identified three high technology corridors where they are seeking to attract new growth industry to the County.

Marie managed to ensure that a very difficult subject was explained clearly to her audience. Her enthusiasm for her responsibilities was certainly not to be doubted.

Roger Hockney
July 2005