Market conditions are reportedly poor for a number of industries, and the dreaded word recession is being bandied around, much to the surprise of many companies. The 'credit crunch' is having a draining effect on consumer confidence; high street spending is down and the residential property market is suffering as a result.
But it's fair to say that despite predictions of 'doom and gloom', some things remain unaffected and this is certainly the case for Birmingham's continual transformation, which is as spectacular as ever.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Birmingham was seen as struggling to punch its weight – a big city but without the vibrant buzz or range of facilities on offer in other metropolitan hubs.
But gradually, it has regained its position as Second City, boasting a shopper’s paradise and a revamped city centre which includes a wealth of stunning mixed-use developments and is the proud home of global companies and brands.
Office space in the centre is now greatly sought after - take up of Birmingham office space in 2007 has been the best in three years. The financial quarter of the city is also growing and is now a major hub, thanks to the rise in companies relocating to Birmingham. The news of Deutsche Bank’s arrival goes to show that it is an important location for international companies as well as those based in the UK.
New buildings are being designed to meet the highest standards incorporating stunning architecture but also ensuring sustainability ratings such as BREEAM ‘excellent’ are achieved. Such designs carry a high cost but the view is that the Birmingham market expects such levels of design and developers are ready to provide them.
Out of town development has seen Birmingham's commercial success extend the boundaries of the much aspired to city centre. Edgbaston is one area receiving plenty of attention and is set to become a highly sought after spot for those companies looking for a leafy but central location. Another success story is the redevelopment of Longbridge. St Modwen’s regeneration project has commenced with two successful office schemes and plans are underway for further major developments.
Businesses moving to Birmingham are bringing with them a wealth of talent. Rather than experiencing a ‘brain drain’ we at Faithful+Gould are finding the opposite – more talent and skills are being brought into the city by companies and importantly more graduates are either staying in Birmingham once they’ve completed their degree, or moving to Birmingham after graduation, another positive sign for the future.
However, Birmingham's blossoming strengths aren't just limited to the expanding commercial district. The fact that exciting projects such as VTP200 - Pettifer’s proposed vertical theme park at Eastside - are going ahead, are testament to Birmingham’s increasing status as the latest leisure location.
The development at Eastside is one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK, and will become a key location not only for leisure but for education too, with Birmingham City University relocating to the site.
In addition, the Cube development is once again pushing the boundaries of contemporary design and presses all the buttons regarding sustainability, regeneration and mixed use.
The Bullring, Mailbox and Brindleyplace have been fantastic examples of Birmingham becoming a city which is much more than just a great place to work, but it doesn’t stop there. People who don’t live or work in the city now have a range of attractions and sights to visit and this is because of the ever-developing personality Birmingham is creating for itself. The conference market is making full use of the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre’s facilities providing Birmingham with the opportunity to showcase its attractions.
Faithful+Gould is continuing to enjoy the success of Birmingham and we are continuing to recruit at all levels as well as being very optimistic of the business opportunities in the area.
This year isn’t going to be easy if the first couple of months are anything to go by, but Birmingham has demonstrated a quietly confident momentum which is down to its continuing regeneration. The promises made by the City Council to press on with the redevelopment of New Street Station and the Library projects will add to the inertia.
Whilst it is important to ensure that there are plenty of high quality schemes to keep attracting larger companies, we must also turn our attention to other aspects which make for a great city such as leisure, the arts and education. With all of these assets, Birmingham cannot fail to become more than the Second City, and be a key city in Europe as well.