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West Midlands Investment Zone gets ‘green light’

Posted on 19 Jun 2024. Edited by: Tony Miles. Read 416 times.
West Midlands Investment Zone gets ‘green light’The Coventry-Warwick Gigapark is one of three key sites that will power the West Midlands Investment Zone

A detailed plan for the delivery of a West Midlands Investment Zone capable of attracting more than £5.5 billion of private investment and over 30,000 new jobs was been given the go-ahead. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Board has agreed a delivery plan that will combine a mix of tax incentives, direct funding and business rate retention for the zone.

The plan is focused on driving growth in advanced manufacturing, green industries, health-tech and underlying digital technologies. The Investment Zone itself will cover the whole of the West Midlands but will be powered through three specific sites with bespoke funding and incentives for businesses that set up there. The three sites are:

Coventry-Warwick Gigapark at Coventry Airport — anchored by a new battery gigafactory and associated businesses and technologies, the site will get tax incentives, business rates retention and £23 million investment for land remediation, infrastructure and connection to power grids.

Birmingham Knowledge Quarter — running northeast from the Birmingham City and Aston universities through Duddeston and Nechells to Aston. It will offer tax incentives, business rates retention and receive £9 million investment for public realm works and active travel infrastructure to help attract investment

Wolverhampton Green Innovation Corridor — which will create new ‘green’ industries and skills through a partnership between the city council and university with a £7 million investment for land remediation and key infrastructure

WMCA chief executive Laura Shoaf said: “The Investment Zone is already attracting significant private sector investment and following the deployment of this delivery plan will have the potential to attract billions of pounds more as well as tens of thousands of new jobs.”

Comprehensive skills programme

He continued: “Those jobs are key because this investment zone needs to be as much about people as it is about business. That is why our delivery plan includes a comprehensive skills programme so local people can get the jobs being created, especially those in the new technology-based and green industries.

“At the heart of our plan, which could not have been put together without the invaluable support of our local councils, universities and the private sector, is the need for this zone to bring inclusive economic growth to every corner of our region. We believe the zone can do that by driving forward the technology based, low carbon industries of the future while attracting top companies from around the world.”

In approving the plan for delivering the zone over the first year, the Board was told that in getting development underway quickly, there was the potential to retain around £1.5 billion of business rates over the zone’s 25-year lifespan — money that can be reinvested into the region instead of going back into Government coffers. That reinvestment would also be used to maintain a comprehensive business support and skills programme which will be set up in the first 12 months using £19 million of the £160 million of Government funding allocated to the West Midlands zone over the next 10 years.

These programmes, which will support priority sectors and complement the region’s wider skills and business support activities, include: £5 million in supply chain adaption — to help businesses maximise the new Investment Zone opportunities; £5 million in research and development (R&D) grants; £5 million for Level 4/5 and other skills training so that local residents have the skills to meet increased demand from high tech investment; £2 million to promote the zone and accelerate investor interest; and £2 million to help grow innovative companies alongside angel investors, building on existing regional programmes.

The West Midlands delivery plan has been developed at pace with considerable support from the region’s public, private and university sectors following the formal launch of the zone by Government in April this year. The zone has the potential to initially attract more than £2 billion of new investment into the regional economy and a further £3.5 billion over its lifetime, creating more than 30,000 jobs by 2034.

The delivery plan will now be submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for final agreement ahead of the release of the funding. The WMCA Board meeting in Wolverhampton’s Civic Centre was also the first to be attended by Warwick District Council following its decision to join the WMCA as a non-constituent member. The council is a key partner in the zone’s Coventry-Warwick Gigapark site, part of which sits within its boundaries.