Birmingham’s Enterprise Zone (EZ) has benefitted from £18 million in the last financial year (2014-15) to kick-start and complete a range of developments over 26 sites throughout the city.
The investment has helped to create or refurbish 60,000 sqm of space* in the EZ and create 1,000 jobs.
Benefits offered by the EZ – such as £275,000 rates relief – have helped to stimulate demand for property in Birmingham city centre. A number of major schemes supported by the EZ have recently opened including Two Snowhill, at a time when Grade A office space is becoming increasingly scarce.
The building has attracted tenants including global law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co and the new 100,000 sq ft national HS2 headquarters.
Other projects that have benefited from EZ investment include 122 Fazeley Street and two major educational institutions: phase one of Birmingham City University’s £180m Eastside campus, and the phase one of University College Birmingham’s new site.
In July 2014, the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP (GBSLEP) and Birmingham City Council agreed to increase the amount of funding available via the EZ to £275m from £128m, to help create 40,000 jobs over the next 25 years.
Andy Street, chairman of the GBSLEP, said: “Since we launched the EZ in April 2011 we have turned this transformational initiative into reality. Developments are being delivered on the ground and importantly we are providing much needed jobs which otherwise would simply not happen.
“The actual investment figures are impressive and emphasise why it’s important to get this right.”
“Alongside the £375m we have secured from the Growth Deal it is clear that we now have a powerful programme of investment that will help us to drive growth and support the economic recovery across the region.”
EZ funding has helped to trigger several developments that are tailored to the creative, digital and tech industries. In Birmingham alone, these sectors comprise some 6,000 companies employing 35,000 people.
The projects range from the transformation of a warehouse on Palmer Street in Digbeth into a local data centre; and the construction of the £35m iCentrum building at the Innovation Birmingham Campus has now started, which will house tech entrepreneurs and start-ups when it opens in March 2016. The EZ has also supported the expansion of the Masshouse development, which includes new office space.
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham is investing on an unprecedented scale to grow its infrastructure, its economy and its employment opportunities.
“More businesses than ever are deciding to locate or start up in the area. Birmingham’s EZ is opening up swathes of the city centre for development, prompting the regeneration of up-and-coming districts and making established areas even more attractive for companies and investors.”
The EZ will be presented to international investors and developers at this year’s global real estate show MIPIM (Cannes, France, March 10-13). It provides the Greater Birmingham delegation with an opportunity to showcase the investment opportunities still available to the private sector.
Pat Hanlon, GBSLEP board director with responsibility for finance, commented: “Working with our partners has enabled us to develop new and innovative ways of funding growth across Birmingham’s EZ area.
“By borrowing against a future business rates uplift, we now have a funding package worth £275m to maximise the impact of the EZ. Using this model has helped to secure private sector investment and is delivering tangible results, such as the start of construction on the Paradise scheme.”
Looking ahead, projects backed by the EZ that are expected to complete in 2015 include the former Post & Mail Building, the new Assay Office in the Jewellery Quarter and the second phase of Birmingham City University’s Eastside campus. Combined, they are expected to generate over 70,000 sqm and 900 jobs. Investment has also been allocated to help deliver the £500m transformation of Paradise and the Midland Metro’s £127m extension across the city centre.
A further £17m has been allocated to improving public spaces and road networks in the Colmore Business District, Snowhill, Digbeth, Jewellery Quarter and Eastside areas of the city.
Waheed Nazir, director for planning and regeneration at Birmingham City Council, added: “Working closely with the LEP, we have been able to put in the place much-needed support to help energise the economy and turn long talked about schemes such as Paradise into a reality.
“Alongside major investment in infrastructure like the extension of the Metro to Centenary Square it is clear that the EZ is playing a vital role in helping Birmingham build an exciting future as a leading place to do business and and invest.”