A free ten-chapter ebook has just been launched. West Midlands: Fit for the Future? Positioning The Region For Economic Recovery is about…

“the future prosperity of the West Midlands, rather than on the effects of the recession, and explores the region’s ability to maximise its potential as it moves out of the downturn.”

Chapters 3 and 4 are possibly the most meaty, the conclusion of chapter 4 being…

“Currently, the city [Birmingham ] appears to act as a barrier to positive economic spill-overs between south and north of the region than as a transmission mechanism that enables them to happen more or less ‘naturally’. … it seems axiomatic that a rejuvenated city, able [ in the near future ] to capture greater benefit from its links with the south east, would be in a better position to re-articulate economic relationships with the struggling northern areas of the region than would any other single place within the West Midlands. It may not seem a propitious time to raise the issue, but the nature and success of an evolving Birmingham city-regional development strategy may prove to be more important than many commentators in the West Midlands care to admit.”

One literal “transmission mechanism” might be to ensure that Keele (or even Stoke) gets to be named as the fourth station on a new LondonBirmingham – Manchester high-speed rail line. If the line cuts through virgin countryside and runs more or less “as the crow flies”, then it almost touches Stoke on the east side of the city. If it follows the M6, it touches Keele on the west side.

A quick flick with a keyword search through the rest of the report finds not a single mention of “arts” or “galleries” or culture-led regeneration, despite the March 2009 WMRO Culture and Prosperity evidence paper. No mention of “social media” nor “newspapers” or “local radio”, and indeed only one passing use of the word “media” itself. The four mentions of “entrepreneurs” all refer to the past. The phrase “creative industries” does merit three passing mentions. The “creative economy” only has one passing mention, referring to the pre-recession 2007 Regional Economic Strategy document…

“the West Midlands Regional Economic Strategy, where key objectives are to focus on high value added and knowledge intensive sectors, the green agenda and the creative economy.”