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BUSINESS LUNCH by 2040, 80% to 90% will be city dwellers. “Greater Birmingham will only grow, and the future belongs to cities. “If you look at the USA, it’s possible to become American in five years – from migrant to American citizen. In California’s Silicon Valley, most people are immigrants who brought ideas with them. Google was formed by two former Russian students. “Now Birmingham’s a relatively young city, less than 200 years old, and most of us are economic migrants – coming to the city because of jobs, businesses and so on. That American sense of being able to plug and play your ideas. My proposition is that Birmingham should display similar characteristics: bring your ideas here and get them commercialised. That potential is a reason to be confident about Birmingham. We’re very welcoming to enterprise and new ideas.” But, Jerry warns, Birmingham currently lacks the international connectivity to become that sort of city. “Birmingham is a great physical location but the airport can’t reach India, China and South America. I meet business people every day who say they want to fly straight to these destinations. The current runway extension is looking to do that, but the Government needs to incentivise airlines... there’s far too cosy a Heathrow environment at the moment.” This echoes evidence Jerry recently gave to the House of Commons’ transport select committee, arguing that the UK economy was held back by poor aviation links to regions outside England’s southeast. It’s not all gloom, however, and Jerry stresses the “good stories” the region has to tell to FDIs – foreign direct investors. “There is a great pipeline of development in Birmingham and the surrounding region. Not only the extension of Birmingham’s runway, but also the redevelopment of New Street Station, the new Library of Birmingham opening this year, and increased motorway capacity with more fourth lanes around the region. “The prospect of HS2 [high speed train lines] also gives a feeling of long-term confidence, and that’s what businesses want more than anything – stability and long-term confidence. To know where we’re going with rail for the next 30 years is an important part of that.”

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 13

SPRING 13

If you’re doing what you love, you’re probably doing it really well and so you’ll be successful and things will work out Transport, travel and connecting people are obviously important to Jerry, who enjoyed an international career in banking with Barclays before joining the Chamber. He was in Toronto for a number of years and his youngest son, Andrew, was born there in the late 1980s. At 17 and with a Canadian passport, Andrew begged his parents to let him return to Toronto to study. Now aged 24, he still works there in marketing for The Keg restaurant chain. Jerry’s eldest son Tom, 28, lives in New York after marrying a girl from Queens, working as a social media marketing expert for the Visa Bureau. This means Jerry, 56, and his wife Flora, 58, regularly leave the family home in Dorridge, Solihull, to cross the Atlantic visiting their ex-pat sons. And Jerry is heartened by what he calls the “confidence” of the region’s younger generation, one he feels is “far less obsessed” with pay, pensions and security, because they “just want to do what they love doing”. He’s

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talking about new start-ups and youthful entrepreneurs now, which sounds good – but is it practical not worrying about the future? Jerry gives me the example of his middle son, Harry, who graduated with a first class honours degree in Fine Art. The recession meant Harry couldn’t find full-time employment and so in 2009 he set up his own design studio, An Endless Supply, in Birmingham. Today, this start-up continues to provide a successful livelihood for Harry, now 26. “If you’re doing what you love,” says Jerry, “you’re probably doing it really well and so you’ll be successful and things will work out. I’ve got confidence in that human condition – innovation, enterprise, the get up and go that humans have. The West Midlands has more 18-24 year olds in economic activity than other regions.” All those new and growing companies require expert advice and support, of course, which over coffee brings the conversation back to Jerry’s main point – the

BQ WEST MIDLANDS issue 1  
BQ WEST MIDLANDS issue 1