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If I look back at 2018 I can probably describe it as a challenging but successful year for the Midlands region.
Yes, there have been some high profile issues such as the failure of Carillion and also the reduction in working hours at JLR, but corporates and their balance sheet are generally in good shape.
East Midlands is now the fastest-growing region outside London and Birmingham is getting an increasing reputation as an entrepreneurial city with 21,000 new businesses started last year.
In addition to that the infrastructure projects and the major regeneration in all the cities in the region is continuing at pace.
The political economic situation has remained pretty much unaltered during the year.
We started the year with some political uncertainty nervousness in equity markets volatility in exchange markets, and not really knowing what Brexit would look like, and we finished the year in exactly the same position.
The Midlands region is really important in terms of the overall UK economy.
It provides 25% of all manufacturing capacity and 20% of all UK exports.
The challenges it faces are similar to other regions, namely, how do you attract and retain the right talent?
How do you improve the communication network?
How do you respond to whatever market conditions Brexit is going to throw at you?
And how do you manage and ever increase in the cost space?
In many ways the challenges of the region face are also its opportunities
The infrastructure projects, such as HS2, are stimulating the construction sector and all of the industries that work around that.
In addition, the Midlands engine is driving investment into high value manufacturing and also improving links with education be it the universities and the schools, to provide the apprentices training and skills that we need going forward.
In addition the awarding of Birmingham of the Commonwealth Games in 2022, and also Coventry nominated as the City of Culture in 2021 has lifted the profile of the region internationally.
Looking forward 2019 will be another year of uncertainty which isn't great for business however in the past the Midlands region has proved itself resilient and I am confident that it will adapt again
We at Barclays will continue to support our clients through these challenging times and I remain cautiously optimistic for 2019.
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