Aided by his family, Gerald has been running businesses in the city for decades and currently runs pawnbrokers Unclesmoney.
As a well-known face about town, we thought we’d get his opinion of business in this fair city of ours
Please introduce yourself
Gerald Pountney, owner of Unclesmoney Pawnbrokers, father of seven children, general entrepreneur.
What does your company do?
Pawnbroking, serviced offices, digital billboards, pubs, clubs and restaurants, to name but a few.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
Yes. Birmingham has a vibrant, entrepreneurial, can-do vibe and has always served our businesses well. The pawnbroking business is excelling, as one would imagine during a recession. The serviced business centres that we run are also performing fantastically well.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
Traffic can sometimes be a problem; however we are seeing vast improvements lately and hope these problems will be addressed and solved in the near future. Void rates on empty properties would definitely benefit businesses like ours – why should the council earn rates when we’re not getting rent for the space? Also, the city comes to a standstill whenever it snows – why is that?
How do you feel your clients see the city?
This is a very difficult question. Those using our pawnbroking business would argue Birmingham is a city with few opportunities and one that doesn’t care about them – which I know not to be the case. On the other hand, our business centre clients might suggest the opposite, seeing a city brimming with life and opportunity. Two very different views indeed.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
It has a central location including easy access to two major motorways. Birmingham is a great spot for national businesses and soon will have an extra airport runway and fantastic rail link. The addition of HS2 will make Birmingham a bigger, better and more thriving city, with the best connections to our capital. There is also a huge variety of highly skilled engineering trades, a resource that more businesses outside Birmingham should be taking advantage of.
What should our priorities be as a city?
Jobs, education, regeneration. Some of the inner city areas have the highest unemployment levels of anywhere in the country.
The one billion dollar question – if you had £1bn to spend, what would you do with it?
Cut business rates by 0.33 billion for the next three years – one huge cut for businesses.