We catch up with Paul Faulkner, the new CEO of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Please introduce yourself
I am Paul Faulkner and I became chief executive of Birmingham Chambers of Commerce in July. Previously, I was chief executive of Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest football clubs. There are actually a lot of similarities with the roles – both are very diverse businesses, dealing with a huge range of different people. And both have a form of membership at their heart – season ticket holders and members at the football clubs and business members at the Chamber.
What is the Chambers’ role?
We describe ourselves as a membership-based business support organisation, a kind of central portal or hub to steer businesses towards greater opportunities, development and success.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
It’s a great place to do business. We are hearing from more and more people who say that the city is at the beginning of a great renaissance. After a period when the city seemed to lack the confidence to promote itself, we are now seeing Birmingham really develop. It helps that we are a youthful city and there’s a freshness that comes from that. Also, good decisions that were taken five or 10 years ago are now starting to come to fruition.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
We still need to shout more about what is good in Birmingham. There are a lot of great partnerships going on here, many of which involve business and the city council working together. We need to accentuate these positives. It’s up to all of us to do that because we have a wonderful city.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
Increasingly positive. People here are very proud of Birmingham and the changes that are happening. People from outside are surprised and very impressed when they come to the city for the first time.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
There’s the obvious one of connectivity, and when HS2 eventually arrives Birmingham will be even more at the hub with 45 million people all being within an hour of the city. We are also a big city with all the benefits that brings, yet we are still small enough to get around and work in very easily.
What should our priorities be as a city?
To seize the moment. To embrace projects such as HS2 and really get behind them. And to embrace the young and ethnic diversity of our city.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
Two things, one serious and one light-hearted! First put it towards smoothing out the inequalities in the city that we all know are there. And for a bit of fun, I’d illuminate Spaghetti Junction so that it’d be visible at night from space – just like the Great Wall of China. What a claim to fame that’d be!