The UK’s second city has slowly been chipping away on its stereotypes in order to become a powerhouse of its own and rival the strengths of Manchester.
According to a report recently published by Knight Frank, Birmingham is now Britain’s business hotspot.
With a population of more than one million, Birmingham is slowly changing its own image for good. The city’s aim is to turn paintings of motorways, industrial decline and urban struggle into images of financial services, new technology and architectural showpieces, Knight Frank stated.
Birmingham’s re-birth is being fuelled by the arrival of big banks, professional services firms, the announcement of the new HS2 and the success of Jaguar Land Rover as well as some other manufacturers.
Go for a wander around the city’s centre and you’ll find living proof of these developments; there is an abundance of glitzy bars, Michelin-starred restaurants and a brand new, 170,000 sq ft big John Lewis.
About 10 years ago, Deutsche Bank opened up its Birmingham office and today it employs 1,200 people. Next year, HSBC is planning to return too, with plans to move its retail bank’s head office to the founding city of Midland Bank, which HSBC bought in 1992. This move will create another 1,200 jobs in the city.
Another two years later, in 2019, HM Revenue & Customs is planning to open a regional hub in Birmingham. They will need another 3,000 people to fill their offices.
Whilst some might think Birmingham’s big boom will only arrive with the HS2, Knight Frank’s head of Birmingham commercial property, Ashley Hudson, may proof them wrong. He explains that last year alone 6,016 people moved from London to Birmingham, more than to any other UK city.
According to him, Birmingham has its very own appeal, reflected by the fact that more and more graduates stay after finishing their degree.
“I arrived in Birmingham 20 years ago and it wasn’t a particularly brilliant place to be and a lot of people would agree with that.”
At one time in the office district there wasn’t really anything to do after work, but now there are bars opening all the time and they are full. There’s never been a better time to work in property in Birmingham.”
Despite almost doubling Manchester in size, Birmingham has played a secondary role to the capital of the Northern Powerhouse in recent years. The former Government chose Manchester as the main focus for their development and investment as it was the centrepiece of the Northern Powerhouse initiative which was brought to life by ex-Chancellor Osborne.
Whilst Theresa May recently announced that the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse will remain as strong as ever under new leadership, she also refers to Birmingham as the Midlands motor, clearly highlighting it as another strong contestant for investment in Britain.
Whether or not the two cities who once fought a significant rivalry during the industrial revolution will get into another competition remains to be seen.
One, however, may hold out hope that this country has more than enough business, people and skills for the former rivals to walk hand-in-hand rather than neck-in-neck.