Wolverhampton Business Week: The future looks bright
As Wolverhampton celebrates it fourth annual Business Week, the city is undergoing a renaissance.
After years in the doldrums and a heritage of failed regeneration projects, Wolverhampton is on the verge of major transformation. Building work is going on across the city centre, with more to come. Cranes are set to become a regular feature of the cityscape over the next few years.
From scores of new homes in and around the former Royal Hospital site to restaurants and a city centre cinema on the Westside, a new railway station, a new city centre market, a new home for the City of Wolverhampton College as part of a city centre Learning Quarter, redevelopment of the Mander shopping centre and new laboratories for hi-tech business on the Science Park, Wolverhampton is about to witness a building boom the likes of which it hasn't see in living memory.
At the same time the city is addressing the perennial problem of the skills gap, with the opening of the new West Midlands Construction UTC at the site of the former Springfield Brewery. It will also be the hub of the University of Wolverhampton's Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills.
As regeneration gathers pace across the city, Wolverhampton is starting to see real benefits.
Figures released earlier this year showed it was one of the UK hotspots for new startup businesses.
During 2016 there was a strong increase of almost 43 per cent in the number of new businesses launched in the city. A total of 2,667 new companies started up in Wolverhampton in 2016, compared to 1,867 the previous year.
That is equivalent to 51 new companies starting up every week in 2016 or seven per day.
It also meant Wolverhampton had a larger growth in startups than nearby Birmingham (33.8 per cent) and the largest startup growth in the West Midlands overall.
Wolverhampton council's economy chief, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “Today’s start-ups are tomorrow’s businesses and crucial to our supply chain across all sectors in the city of Wolverhampton.
“We have a great range of start-ups in the city and they make an invaluable contribution both to our local economy and as a route for people to become self-employed.”
That recognition of the importance of a flourishing business base underpins the city's annual Business Week. This will see a string of events taking place over the next five days aimed at encouraging more firms to start up in Wolverhampton or base themselves here.
Today Wolverhampton Racecourse is hosting an event encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. Councillor Reynolds said: "There has been a great response to the inspiring women event and it is fully booked.
“It is one of the key areas we are keen to work on to make sure we get the full potential out of everyone in the workforce in the City of Wolverhampton.”
The keynote event will come on Wednesday, with a Business Breakfast at the GTG Training centre in Wednesfield, which will be hosted by BBC TV business journalist Steph McGovern. Scores of leading figures from the local business community will be on hand to hear fresh updates on progress with major schemes such as the £55m city centre Westside redevelopment by Urban & Civic.