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Agency played key role in investment; business TheProf With Professor David Bailey of Coventry University Business School.

JAGUAR Land Rover's pounds 355 million investment in a new engine plant at the i54 site in Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton is likely to create 750-900 jobs directly and the same number again in the wider economy. The investment helps to anchor JLR in the region, and is a welcome vote of confidence in the region's auto industry and skills base.

The key thing, of course, is that JLR is investing heavily in the region, and who takes the credit for this politically is a secondary issue. But we should note that a number of public agencies have worked together to get the deal done. Local authorities played a key role in quickly approving a new junction of the M54 motorway to open up access to the site, as did the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership in getting enterprise zone status for the site (faster planning and enhanced capital allowances should assist JLR's investment). The government has also played a role in supporting the investment.

But let's not forget the role of the Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands in getting to this point. It's worth remembering that it took almost 10 years of AWM effort in remediating the i54 site, putting in infrastructure and in attracting tenants - think MOOG, Eurofins and now JLR.

It was AWM which agreed the deal with JLR for the purchase of the site months ago, and then had to secure BIS approval for the deal. AWM actually owned the site until one minute past midnight on September 18 (i.e. the day before the JLR announcement was made).

It was a similar story following the closure of the JLR plant at Browns Lane in Coventry. There, AWM and its partner Goodmans negotiated with JLR and Coventry City Council to re-develop the site for mixed use ranging from affordable housing through to light manufacturing. The subsequent redevelopment work, including a pounds 9 million investment by AWM and Goodman in putting in a new road to open up the site, led to the recent announcement that CPP had taken an option to buy part of the site from AWM and intended bringing car production back to Browns Lane, now renamed Lyons Park.

With AWM being abolished and use of the 'Region' word banished, it's inevitable that AWM will get airbrushed out of the picture - but let's not forget the positives coming out of AWM's record - whether the Rover Task Force, Regional Rask Force, or its work in regenerating sites like i54 or Browns Lane.

One day the need to join up the work of LEPs through some sort of intermediate scale will be back on the political agenda. The lessons from RDAs (positive and negative) will need to be remembered. AWM isn't perfect but it has done a lot of good work for the region's economy and both i54 and Browns Lane are two examples of just that.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 3, 2011
Words:481
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