2021 has been a year like no other in the West Midlands. As the region joined others across the UK just trying to work out how it was going to deal with the pandemic, it is ending the year in a very similar position.
But away from covid-19, our major firms such as Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Aston Martin and the NEC Group were once again making the headlines while we saw plenty of moves, deals and investment right across Birmingham, the Black Country, Staffordshire and the rest of the West Midlands.
Here, we round up the top ten most-read stories of 2021, published by the West Midlands reporting team on BusinessLive. Enjoy!
Norton Motorcycles reveals new UK base
Historic bike builder Norton Motorcycles announced it was pulling out of its Leicestershire home at the start of the year – in favour of the West Midlands.
The company had been based in Castle Donington for more than ten years before falling into administration and eventually being bought by India’s TVS Motor Company.
It has now opened its new global headquarters at Solar Park, Solihull, in a move which is expected to create up to 100 new jobs.
‘Mumpreneur’ wins Dragons’ Den backing
Birmingham entrepreneur Kameese Davis enjoyed a star turn on hit BBC show Dragons’ Den.
Ms Davis is behind the Nylah’s Naturals range of beauty products which are aimed at people with textured and afro hair.
Both named after and inspired by her daughter, the ‘mumpreneur’ impressed the judging panel and in particular Sara Davies who offered her £50,000 in exchange for a 40 per cent stake in the business.
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Work on eastern leg of HS2 stops
In July, we reported that work had paused on the eastern leg of high-speed rail project HS2.
Chief executive Mark Thurston said the Department for Transport had told officials on the scheme to stop working on the project which was going to see the link extended from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands.
In November, the Government confirmed what many fans of the project had been fearing for months – that HS2 would run from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway only, with the extension to Yorkshire abandoned.
US investor eyes new direction for shopping park
US investors took a slice of Birmingham’s property market when they bought The Fort Shopping Park in Castle Bromwich.
Although itself a run-of-the-mill transaction, the new owners, Atlanta-based Invesco Real Estate, said it had grand plans to repurpose some of the site and explore additional uses as the retail market attempted to battle the unstoppable rise of online giants.
The 29-acre park could soon be welcoming logistics and fulfilment occupiers alongside its incumbent retailers and food and drink outlets.
Marks & Spencer to move across Birmingham
High street retailer Marks & Spencer announced it was leaving its huge store in Birmingham city centre.
It is still trading from its current base in High Street but is expected to complete the move by early 2023, with all 150 staff moving to the new shop which will sell clothes and homewares and have a food hall.
Team behind former Opus restaurant back with new venue
The team behind a popular restaurant in the heart of Birmingham’s business district which closed earlier this year announced it was launching a new venue.
Opus in Cornwall Street confirmed in May that it was not reopening in line with the easing of government restrictions at that time but just a few months later the directors said they had acquired a new site in Edgbaston.
Called Chapter, it has recently opened in Greenfield Crescent.
Avanti West Coast’s new train fleet
Work started earlier this year on a major investment by Avanti West Coast into a fleet of new trains following its successful tender bid to run services on the West Coast Main Line in 2019.
The fleet of 23 trains will be providing key inner city services including between Birmingham New Street and London Euston.
The new fleet will include 13 Class 805 five-carriage, bi-mode trains which are due to replace the current diesel Voyager trains in 2022 and deliver a 61 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.
JCB lands biggest-ever UK order
Digger maker JCB broke yet another record after landing its biggest-ever order from a UK customer.
The 75-year-old manufacturer won a £65 million contract for 2,100 machines from equipment rental company Sunbelt Rentals UK, which is based in Warrington.
The order included JCB Loadall telescopic handlers, mini and midi excavators, site dumpers, tracked excavators and rough terrain forklifts – which were all manufactured at JCB’s Staffordshire factories – as well as 350 JCB access platforms.
£160m West Midlands Designer Outlet opens
A £160 million shopping village which boasts major brands including Kurt Geiger, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger officially opened in Staffordshire.
The McArthurGlen West Midlands Designer Outlet, which has been likened to Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port, has been constructed near Cannock and is the first new McArthurGlen outlet in 20 years.
Other brands which have taken space at the complex include Ted Baker, Haribo, Starbucks and Five Guys.
35 Under 35 – Meet the young West Midlands business stars
BusinessLive West Midlands ran its first ever ’35 under 35′ list to shine a spotlight on some of the leading young figures in the region’s business community.
The list was compiled in association with the BSEEN startup support programme, led by Aston University in collaboration with Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham and Newman University.
While those featured in the list may not be the most well known, the richest or most successful, they all proved and continue to prove that age is not a barrier in the business world.