Thanks to the fairbrum blog I spotted a report funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and written by the Centre for Cities looking at city economies in 1901 and what, if anything, we can learn from them for today. The points they make about brum include….
If you lived in Birmingham back in 1901, the chances are life would have been pretty good. It was the fourth largest city in the country at the time (behind London, Manchester and Liverpool) and a magnet for people looking for economic opportunity. The ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ was a workshop full of small, highly skilled firms producing a huge range of products. As a result, levels of enterprise were high and unemployment was low. At this point 12 percent of employment in the city was in vehicle manufacture.
By 1951, 72% of the manufacturing workforce were employed in the automotive industry.
The 1970s recession forced the collapse of the automotive industry. As a result, Birmingham, which had followed a very different path from other manufacturing centres in the decades following 1901, saw a striking transition from high employment and high wages to high unemployment and deprivation. The city has since seen modest jobs growth, driven primarily by the public sector.
Cities should constantly be considering how they can make the most of niche strengths but also how they can encourage greater industrial diversity. For many cities the focus will need to be on the fundamental drivers of growth: skills and infrastructure. Cities need to work with local providers to ensure education and training responds to the needs of the modern economy and target investment in infrastructure to ensure cities are both better connected and attractive to workers and businesses.
To read the whole report click here.