The Midlands is being held back by the lack of an integrated transport system, says business leader Ninder Johal who urges stronger lobbying to win the investment needed
Please introduce yourself
I am Ninder Johal, CEO of the Nachural Music Group. I am also president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, chair of the Black Country Asian Business Association and a board member of the Black Country LEP.
What does your company do?
It started as a record company producing bhangra music (Asian dance music) and has diversified into event production and latterly manufacturing commercial loudspeakers. I started life in the music industry as a musician and continue to perform at festivals with bhangra band Achanak.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
My business is based in the Black Country but both the Black Country and Birmingham are great places to do business. As someone who has licensed music all over the world, I and many other businesses do not recognise geographical boundaries. Our central location is ideal and HS2 will provide a further endorsement of the region’s excellent connectivity. The metropolitan area is driving an advanced manufacturing renaissance. We have a superb skilled workforce as well as the youngest population in the UK and Europe – and whenever you have a young population it has to be a good thing. The education levels in our schools are rapidly improving all the time too.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
We do not have a rapid transport system – it is the largest conurbation in Europe without one. I hate going to London but getting around there is so easy. Just hop on an off the Tube. We do even get close to a transport infrastructure similar to that in London. I realise that a proper integrated transport system would be expensive but we need a strong enough voice to go down to London and tell the Government that if they really mean what they say about rebalancing the economy from the South East, they have to make the investment in Birmingham and the Midlands.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
The city has been transformed over the years with a fantastic offering. We provide a great multi-cultural experience in a vibrant landscape. Projects like the new library raise the profile of the city in a very positive way. And let’s not forget the expansion of Birmingham Airport which can only enhance the reputation of the area.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
We are a hotbed of ingenuity and ideas here and the obvious heart of the UK’s manufacturing base, as is perfectly evidenced by Jaguar Land Rover’s decision to continue to expand its economic commitment to the area.
What should our priorities be as a city?
To make the whole area a place where people want to live and raise their families. To achieve this we have to lobby much harder for the commitment to provide the infrastructure that we need moving forward.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
It has to be a 21st century transport system that links the Black Country to Birmingham so that we can enjoy a unified visitor economy experience for tourists and the indigenous population. Could you imagine the inward investment that could be attracted by a fantastic transport system?