James Wheeler

The CEO and curator of Birmingham Botanical Gardens and has ideas for creating green spaces, attracting investment and roofing over the A38. He tells us what the city needs…

Please introduce yourself

I am James Wheeler, CEO and curator of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

What does your company do?

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a not-for-profit educational charity and visitor attraction. It opened in 1832 and has been entertaining and educating Brummies about the wonders of plants ever since.

Is Brum a good place to do business?

Yes, because Brummies appreciate good value for money and service and reward you with great customer loyalty when you provide it. We have 5000 loyal members and many of our customers first visit us as children and then come again when they are parents and grandparents. Therefore, we are truly an attraction for all ages.

What are your biggest gripes with it?

There’s been a lack of investment from both public and private sources in the past. We need much better forward planning for infrastructure development, which will bring a better quality of life.

How do you feel your clients see the city?

A city with something for everyone – you can do business all day and party all night. The Botanical Gardens is just one of many high quality venues. Uniquely, we offer venues for work, play and a place where you can recuperate afterward.

Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?

It has good transport and communications networks, plus a wide variety of services and potential business partners.

What should our priorities be as a city?

We should aim to improve our quality of life by focusing on our built and green environments and attracting the ambitious and aspirational to make our city their home.

The one billion dollar question (if you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it)

I’d create more indoor and outdoor green spaces and improve access to them by foot, bicycle and public transport. Unused space in the city should be used to create temporary parks and playing fields.  For a really ambitious project, how about roofing over the A38 and other underpasses and covering them with green space and trees?

Anything else to add…

We should stop referring to ourselves as the ‘Second City’, because it sounds second rate. Let’s stop comparing ourselves with other destinations. Birmingham is unique and we have nothing to apologise for. The City offers amazing opportunities, whatever you want to do, so get out there and enjoy it!