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LETTERS & OPINION: Makeover vital.

The Parkinson Report into urban revival makes good and bad reading for Birmingham.

On the plus side, Professor Parkinson found that cities with universities and airports are more likely to enjoy sustained economic growth than those without such facilities. Birmingham, with three universities and a highly-rated international airport, should in that case be sitting pretty.

The report also pointed out that well connected city regions are most likely to generate wealth, which is where Birmingham, with its problems over New Street Station, the metro and the motorway network, falls down.

Whatever the merit of Parkinson's Law, the blunt economic truth is that Birmingham is not doing as well as many of its competitor cities. Despite a feeling here that regeneration is going well, Birmingham performed slightly below the national average in terms of increased wealth generation between 1995 and 2002, while Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool raced ahead.

Major European cities, meanwhile, also outstripped Birmingham in economic growth.

One problem that has been identified is the difficulty Birmingham apparently has in persuading its university graduates to seek employment locally. Too many young people, it seems, head for other cities when they finish studying thereby depriving the Birmingham economy of earnings power.

It is difficult to see why this should be the case, or how to persuade people who have been studying here for up to five years that they should make Birmingham their permanent home if they are not already minded to do so.

Clearly, tackling the brain-drain must be a major priority for the city council and the business community. But no one should be under any illusion about the difficulty of improving Birmingham's image among young graduates.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 9, 2006
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