Ambitious plans have been revealed today to turn the Midlands into an 'engine for growth' to power £34 billion of growth in the UK economy and create up to 300,000 new jobs.
The proposals, dubbed the Midlands Engine Prospectus, were unveiled at a special event at the University of Birmingham this morning and focus on boosting productivity, attracting investment to the region, increasing connectivity and building regional tourism.
It is the first scheme of its kind in the country and comes in the wake of Government backing for the West Midlands Combined Authority and the devolution of powers from Whitehall to the region.
The 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships from across the Midlands – organisations made up of local authority chiefs and business leaders with the job of increasing local investment and creating more jobs – came together for the first time yesterday to pool their ambitions for the Midlands Engine.
Speaking at the event, Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The Midlands is the heartland of our thriving manufacturing sector and home to 25 universities, playing a strong role in the recovery of the UK economy.
"Over the last year, private sector employment in the Midlands grew more than three times faster than London and the South East.
"But there are more opportunities to capitalise on the Midlands' natural strengths and assets and make it an engine for growth.
"Through this prospectus, which sets out the region's own vision to unlock greater economic growth, it's time to fire up the Midlands Engine.
"I commend the leadership shown by the Midlands Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities and others to come together and pool resources to work towards the shared goal of greater growth for the whole region."
Mr Javid also confirmed the region would receive £5 million of support for a new trade and investment package to reach new markets and boost exports. He will lead the first Midlands Engine trade mission next year to promote the region to investors and trade partners, aiming to deliver more growth, exports and jobs.
The new prospectus is focused on five key themes – skills, innovation, transport, promoting the 'Engine', and finance for business – and is part of the Government's wider plans to support jobs and growth.
Backers say that if the Midlands region matches the predicted growth rate for the UK over the next 15 years, it could create 300,000 jobs and boost the national economy by £34 billion.
Communities Minister Marcus Jones said: "As part of our long term economic plan, the Midlands economy has the potential to grow by £34 billion by 2030, and by the end of this parliament, there could be as many as 300,000 extra jobs.
"Building on the strengths that we already have, with world-beating companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and JCB, the Midlands Engine will create the opportunities for businesses to grow and thrive.
"Today's prospectus demonstrates how, by focussing on innovation, finance and skills and developing world-class infrastructure we can create an environment in which the Midlands will cement its place as an economic engine for the whole nation."
David Frost , chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP, added: "The Midlands Engine provides a unique opportunity to cement the natural links between business, the public sector and universities. Working together with the LEPs, the aim is to boost productivity and add value to the UK economy.
"There is a real hunger to work across boundaries to build on the strengths that we have in pursuit of building an ever-stronger economy."
During the visit Mr Javid also opened part of the Energy Research Accelerator at Birmingham University, which will benefit from a £60 million government investment to deliver a step change in the impact of energy research in the UK.