Up close with the chair of retail BID Jonathan Cheetham
Please introduce yourself
I am Jonathan Cheetham, chair of Retail Birmingham Business Improvement District and general manager of Grand Central.
What does your company do?
The role of the BID is to ensure that Birmingham city centre retains a thriving business and retail environment and continues to grow as a world-class destination for visitors, businesses, employers and employees.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
An incredible place to do business. It’s one of Europe’s most youthful cities with net migration into the city centre. It has a cityscape which is constantly evolving for the better, with planned and far-reaching development and embracing and leading in technology, business and an ever-growing and successful legal and financial centre of excellence.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
The city has traditionally undersold its values and assets to the rest of the country. We are great at the ‘big picture’ but historically not so great with the detail and maintenance. We need to get better at talking up the city. It should be easy – we haven’t got to exaggerate or make anything up, we have it all. Ballet, theatres, museums, world-class conferencing facilities, more Michelin restaurants than any city outside London, a centre of engineering, technological and automotive excellence.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
Extremely positively or they would choose not to be here. I can see a continuing momentum in civic pride beginning to grow which is always an excellent harbinger of success.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
How long have you got? One of the best connected cities in the country, HS2 coming soon, investing major expenditure in infrastructure, transport and people. Private investment flooding into the city on a constant basis, major blue chip businesses relocating, building flagship developments in the core of the city. I could go on…
What should our priorities be as a city?
It’s all about connectivity and quality. The quality of the built environment to attract business/people. The quality of transport and great walking/cycling routes to encourage movement and thus vitality and accessibility which equals improving desirability and value. Sounds very simple. A phrase I use is ‘connecting the bunkers of excellence’ within this great city and there are more and more of these available as it develops… the secret is making it connected, liveable and workable, which Birmingham is beginning to do so much better than many cities.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
The remodelled Bullring added positivity to Birmingham, anchoring the outer edge of the city core and radically improving the quality and standard of offer. The newly developed Grand Central and New Street station are the latest addition to this central area. With the Paradise Forum development at the mid-end of the city underway, it is imperative that the now jaded New Street becomes a remodelled, improved conduit for that walkability and great connection that this street was once famed for throughout the Midlands. This would have a major and positive effect on the city, New Street and the connections between.