Region ‘must capitalise on growth opportunities’ to become leading economic power, says NEC Group chief

Paul Thandi - Ambassador of the Year

The West Midlands must capitalise on future growth opportunities such as high speed rail, devolved decision-making powers and infrastructure improvements if it is to become a leading economic power, one of the region’s leading business figures has said.

Paul Thandi, chief executive of the NEC Group, also said that Brexit must not be allowed to cloud the growth strategy – no matter how tough negotiations might prove.

Mr Thandi made his comments after being revealed as Ambassador of the Year at the 2017 West Midlands Business Masters awards, organised by

Speaking about the performance of his own business, Mr Thandi said: “We are growing very quickly and we have a lot to do. Brexit won’t make things any easier – we have B2B and hospitality businesses within our portfolio and it (Brexit) will push up hospitality costs considerably.

“Nevertheless, we won’t allow this to stop us from achieving our goals.

“We will be bringing more leisure attractions to the NEC but equally, we must capitalise on future opportunities such as those posed by HS2, devolution, infrastructure improvements and most importantly, we should all throw our weight behind Birmingham’s bid to stage the Commonwealth Games.”

Mr Thandi, who has been in charge of the NEC Group for the past ten years, said the business had had to endure some tough times during the past decade but by sticking to its strategy it had ultimately proved to be successful.

“We are working with some major international brands such as Merlin and Genting and have seen visitor numbers grow to 7.5 million,” he said.

“We are proud of what we have achieved but also what we have yet to achieve. We have so much more to do but it is heartening to see that Birmingham is at last starting to punch its weight.”

He said he was also pleased that there was more collaboration between the various stakeholders in the city, even if they were competing offers. He pointed to the example of Edgbaston and how the venue was currently in the spotlight for its hosting of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament.

“However, I know that if I wanted something then I could ring Neil (Snowball – Edgbaston chief executive) and he would help me and vice versa,” he said.

“As a leader, it’s your job to leave things better than you found it and I hope that it is what I have been able to achieve.

“The world is a lot tougher now than it was and there are likely to be far more distractions than there were.

“We need to inspire the next generation and it’s everyone’s job in this room tonight to see that we do this.”