Downtown Birmingham in Business were this week joined by CEO of Bruntwood, Chris Oglesby.
Chris reflected on Bruntwood’s journey in the West Midlands. They landed in Birmingham back in 1995 by purchasing The Cornwall Building but only in more recent years have he and his team seen big opportunities for the city.
On the back of sponsoring the Commonwealth Games last year, the organisation is powering on with B-IQ (Birmingham Innovation Quarter) a partnership between Bruntwood SciTech, Aston University and Birmingham City Council and Chris highlighted they would create an ecosystem with science and tech firms, disruptors in their sector who will require this to grow their business’ and support business’s as a wrap around, creating an innovation city to drive the economy.
Bruntwood has one core purpose: Creating Thriving Cities and believe cities are the economic driver for the region long term; but Chris said it was important to create great towns and villages in surrounding areas to attract and retain top talent to the region and the populist narrative from politicians in recent years creating a ‘town v city’ debate had been unhelpful.
Bruntwood is all for collaboration and understands that if a city thrives, so does the value of their portfolio and it is key to align its strategy with the places they operate. With being a long-term investor they can have soft power and influence in a region on their direction of travel and that strong leadership at both public-private sector level is key. When asked about the state of national politics currently and the impact on business, Chris stated ‘‘If you get local politics right first, you can do some great stuff and grow progressive economies’’
Chris is a big believer in devolution and wished for more local insight into education, highlighting UA92 as a great model that could be adopted elsewhere. Driven by industry and creating skills for local business was fundamental for the future. He also stated transport needed pan-regional join up and the planning needed to be part of the long-term economic strategy, which the combined authorities could benefit from.
Birmingham City Council
With the recent news of the council issuing a 114, the concern was that nothing would happen for too long and a fire sale of stock to plug financial gaps would be a bad move for the city.
Public-Private sector partnerships are going to be key and Chris see’s real opportunity building on the back of the past few years.
Neil Rami, CEO of West Midlands Growth company added that in times of crisis, people come together and there is so much more to do in Birmingham and West Midlands.
Cities, Place & Events
When put to Chris, ‘’Should cities hold back as we have seen with Melbourne on hosting such events as the Commonwealth Games due to the financial implications?’’ his answer was clear, ‘No’
Places need to be bold and think big. Bringing people together and finding ways to get on the front foot was crucial. DCMS should be front and centre of inward investment with music and football being highlighted as our global soft power which will help build the reputation and brand of the UK again.
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