Small business is increasingly the key to Birmingham’s resurgence


By Keith Morgan, CEO, British Business Bank

Birmingham was once known as ‘The City of a Thousand Trades’, defining itself not by the huge mills of the North but by its small craftsman, local traders and artisan makers. It’s a moniker that had all but disappeared during the 90s and the early 00s, and yet it is one that now seems increasingly relevant.

Small businesses are a key driver of Birmingham’s growth, and it is essential that they get the funding and finance options they need to facilitate their growth and the resurgence of the city.

Looking back at the 90s, it was clear that the recession hit Birmingham harder than much of the rest of the country. By the end of 1992, unemployment in Birmingham was not far off 20% – of the major UK cities, only Manchester and Liverpool had it worse.

Fast forward to 2008 and the region was again hit hard. As with so many other post-industrial cities, a dwindling of the manufacturing industry it once relied on saw unemployment rise

And yet, arriving in the city ahead of the British Business Bank’s ‘Vital Ingredient for Growth’ event tomorrow, the air of optimism is palpable. There are still issues to overcome, notably the ongoing debate about a single West Midlands authority, but it strikes me that the city is taking big steps to regaining its crown as the heart of UK small businesses.

The stats tell a compelling story. Birmingham is more than just a city of a thousand trades. It’s a city of hundreds of thousands of businesses – 742,560 at last count, with huge potential for still more. The return of iconic gun maker WH Horton is but one great example of a local resurgence in small artisans making specialist products.

A House of Commons study this year found that the number of businesses in the Midlands grew by 9% in 2014, and Tech City UK recently reported that nearly a third of local businesses named access to finance as one of the major benefits of moving to Birmingham. The thriving enterprise culture in Birmingham, so incredibly important in building its economy, is one which many other UK cities would aspire to replicate – and that would bring huge benefits to the country’s economy as a whole.

The British Business Bank’s ‘Vital Ingredient for Growth’ event, taking place at the Custard Factory on Thursday 25 June from 10.30, will be examining aspects of this culture and debating what more we can do to ensure that smaller businesses in the region can access yet more volume and choice of funding.

We are proud to be unlocking finance markets for smaller businesses locally. The figures speak for themselves – as of March 2015, we were supporting over £345 million of lending and investment to over 3,000 Midlands-based smaller businesses, and there’s a lot more to come.

And it is crucial that small business owners also realise that there is an increasing array of finance options to choose from.

The British Business Bank’s Finance Guide – published in conjunction with the ICAEW and available for free on our website – sets out these options, and there are many fantastic organisations in the Midlands similarly dedicated to helping local businesses along their funding journeys.

The Midlands has a bright future, and at the British Business Bank we are committed to its continued success

To join us at Thursday’s event please register at: