Major economic boost and thousands of new jobs on the way

Published:  19 June, 2024

A detailed plan for the delivery of a West Midlands Investment Zone capable of attracting more than £5.5bn of private investment and over 30,000 new jobs was recently given the green light.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Board agreed a delivery plan that will combine a mix of tax incentives, direct funding and business rate retention for the zone.

The plan is focussed on driving growth in advanced manufacturing, green industries, health-tech and underlying digital technologies.

The Investment Zone itself will cover the whole West Midlands but will be powered through three specific sites with bespoke funding and incentives for businesses who set up there.

The three sites are:

• The Coventry-Warwick Gigapark at Coventry Airport. Anchored by a new battery gigafactory and associated businesses and technologies, the site will get tax incentives, business rates retention and £23m investment for land remediation, infrastructure and connection to power grids

• The Birmingham Knowledge Quarter – running northeast from the Birmingham City and Aston universities through Duddeston and Nechells to Aston. The Quarter will offer tax incentives, business rates retention and receive £9m investment for public realm works and active travel infrastructure to help attract investment

• The Wolverhampton Green Innovation Corridor will create new green industries and skills through a partnership between the city council and university with £7m investment for land remediation and key infrastructure

The Coventry-Warwick Gigapark is one of three key sites that will power the West Midlands Investment Zone

Laura Shoaf, WMCA Chief Executive, said: “The Investment Zone is already attracting significant private sector investment and following the deployment of this delivery plan will have the potential to attract billions of pounds more as well as tens of thousands of new jobs.

“Those jobs are key because this investment zone needs to be as much about people as it is about business. That’s why our delivery plan includes a comprehensive skills programme so local people can get the jobs being created, especially those in the new technology-based and green industries.

“At the heart of our plan, which could not have been put together without the invaluable support of our local councils, universities and private sector, is the need for this zone to bring inclusive economic growth to every corner of our region. We believe the zone can do that by driving forward the technology based, low carbon industries of the future while attracting top companies from around the world.”

In approving the plan for delivering the zone over the first year, the Board was told that in getting development underway quickly, there was the potential to retain around £1.5bn of business rates over the zone’s 25-year lifespan – money that can be reinvested into the region instead of going back into government coffers.

That reinvestment would also be used to maintain a comprehensive business support and skills programme which will be set up in the first 12 months using £19m of the £160m of government funding allocated to the West Midlands zone over the next 10 years.

These programmes, which will support priority sectors and complement the region’s wider skills and business support activities, include:

• £5m in supply chain adaption – to help businesses maximise the new Investment Zone opportunities

• £5m in research and development (R&D) grants

• £5m for Level 4/5 and other skills training so that local residents have the skills to meet increased demand from high tech investment

• £2m to promote the zone and accelerate investor interest

• £2m to help grow innovative companies alongside angel investors, building on existing regional programmes

The West Midlands delivery plan has been developed at pace with considerable support from the region’s public, private and university sectors following the formal launch of the zone by government in April this year.

The zone has the potential to initially attract more than £2bn of new investment into the regional economy and a further £3.5bn over its lifetime, creating more than 30,000 jobs by 2034.

The delivery plan will now be submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for final agreement ahead of the release of the funding.

This morning’s WMCA Board meeting in Wolverhampton’s Civic Centre was also the first to be attended by Warwick District Council following its decision to join the WMCA as a non-constituent member.

The council is a key partner in the zone’s Coventry-Warwick Gigapark site, part of which sits within its boundaries.

The Coventry-Warwick Gigapark is one of three key sites that will power the West Midlands Investment Zone

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