A new report, released last week by commercial real estate firm Avison Young, has placed the spotlight firmly on Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city, whose continued growth is being driven by its thriving visitor economy, fast-expanding community of tech businesses, and track record in retaining graduate talent.

The West Midlands welcomed over 141 million visitors in 2022, representing a 38% year-on-year increase, and Birmingham’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in the same year also helped to put the city on the global map – attracting over five million visitors to the city centre, creating over 9,000 new jobs and delivering an economic upswing of over £400 million.

Firmly in position as a key UK city, Birmingham’s economic output is estimated to exceed £100 billion – and its visitor economy is a central enabler of this. With a lively events and conference calendar, Birmingham is currently preparing to host the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit, which will welcome over 1,500 global sports leaders to the city in April.

One of Birmingham’s key office-based growth sectors is information and communication, which includes tech businesses and is expected to grow by 11.4% by 2028, having already trebled in size since 2014. A 2021 report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) identified the West Midlands as the country’s fastest growing tech hub, with 52,000 new tech roles expected to be created by 2025.

Crucial to the growth of the information and communication sector in Birmingham and the West Midlands is support for entrepreneurs, the region’s relative affordability compared to London, and a strong talent network. Each year, over 219,000 students generate more than 73,000 retained graduates, which is driving growth and contributing to Birmingham’s proposition as a destination for ambitious start-ups, scale-ups and large corporates.

In the 2022/23 financial year, Birmingham also secured top ranking for foreign inward investment, with the highest growth rate in the UK, outperforming South East England. The UK’s ‘second city’ has also seen major corporations, such as HSBC and Goldman Sachs, moving into offices in its city centre, signalling Birmingham’s continued ascent to the status of a global city.

All these areas of economic optimism are soon to be bolstered by the long-awaited arrival of HS2, improving connectivity between London and the Midlands, and supporting Birmingham’s ambition to continue attracting big-name occupiers, deliver improved infrastructure, retain talent and build a sustainable, diverse economy.

David Martin, interim regional managing director for Birmingham at Avison Young UK, said:

“With a thriving visitor economy, impressive projected growth across key sectors – including digital, tech and life sciences – and several major corporations choosing to establish a presence within the city, Birmingham’s robust, sustainable economy continues to build momentum.

“From securing top ranking for foreign inward investment to retaining the graduate talent from our world-class universities, the city is poised to achieve significant growth in the medium term, supported by the anticipated arrival of HS2 and the connectivity this will unlock for the wider region.”

Hilary Smyth-Allen, executive director at SuperTech West Midlands said:

“The West Midlands is poised for unprecedented growth in the tech sector, which is good news for leveraging the area’s rich talent pool and our strength in professional services. Our region’s focus on fostering the next generation of tech firms, particularly in fintech and proptech, situates us as a burgeoning hub, ready to lead on a national scale.

“At SuperTech, we are committed to bridging the gap between SMEs and major industry players. By harnessing the innovative capacity of our universities and the diversity of our workforce, we see a future where the West Midlands sets the standard for tech adoption and industry collaboration.”

Maggie Grogan, managing director at Muse, said:

“Muse is all about turning visionary projects into reality. Our collaborations with councils on decade-spanning initiatives, such as Arden Cross, show our commitment to not just building, but thoughtfully crafting the West Midlands’ future.

“In the West Midlands, we see a canvas for innovation in commercial development. With a focus on sustainability and strategic public-private sector partnerships, we’re not just developing properties, we’re shaping resilient communities for the next generation.”

Tim Johnson, chief executive at City of Wolverhampton Council, added:

“Wolverhampton’s blueprint for growth is rooted in a long-term vision that integrates the vibrancy of our educational institutions, the innovation of our private sector, and the dedication of our public leadership. The Wolverhampton of tomorrow is one that retains its graduates, invests in adult education, and revitalises the heart of the city with green living spaces.

“The City of Wolverhampton Council’s partnership with Microsoft on generative AI is just one example of how we’re ambitiously stimulating job growth to create a truly dynamic future for our city.”

For more information on Avison Young and to view its Birmingham Outlook report, please visit: www.avisonyoung.co.uk/country-outlook/urban-futures