Team work needed to raise Black Country's fortunes

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has urged increased team work to address the growing economic challenges being faced by the Black Country.

Andy Street and Sarah Moorhouse at the conference
Andy Street and Sarah Moorhouse at the conference

Mr Street was a keynote speaker at the Black Country Economic Business Conference staged by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce today.

He told an audience of the region's leading business figures at the University of Wolverhampton's business school that the West Midlands Combined Authority had a plan for growth to grow the economy and businesses in the Black Country and wider region and help it bounce back after it was hard hit by Covid and now faced challenges including rising energy costs, workforce shortage and inflation.

"Team work is key. The combined authority can draw people together and that can help us to address these challenges, " he stressed.

The chamber's new chief executive Sarah Moorhouse said the conference formed part of the chamber's This is the Black Country campaign which celebrates the region's businesses and aims to offer renewed support.

Mr Street said the Black Country has some fast growing sectors including logistics and distribution and manufacturing of future housing.

He said the authority aimed to get fresh investment behind these sectors.

He praised the region's colleges and training providers for working to improve skills and said investment in transport in the Black Country was rising.

"It has taken us time but there are all sorts of schemes across the Black Country with diggers in the ground including new stations for Willenhall and Darlaston," he added.

Mr Street said plans for a Dudley interchange were advancing and funding for a new station in Aldridge had also been found.

The Black Country would also benefit from investment in developing very light rail technology at Dudley.

The authority was also using its cash to bring big employment sites to reality including at Phoenix 10, Walsall; the i54, Wolverhampton and Friar Park, Sandwell.

Wolverhampton South East MP and shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden set out Labour's ideas for economic growth that would benefit the Black Country and the country as a whole.

There would be a focus on investing in improving skills, including through more apprenticeships.

He said the Black County could be at the forefront of the transition to green energy generation, transport and manufacturing. The UK needed to be making the technology not just buying it and the Black Country could be key to that.

"Growth has to come from the efforts of everyone – from every business leader and site of learning," he emphasised.

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