Millennium Point’s charitable ambitions stem from developing events business
Millennium Point’s new leadership team has ambitions to grow its events business so it can increase the amount of support it provides through its charitable trust.
The organisation provided donations and support valued at £4.8m last year and is looking to increase its profitable revenues so that its charitable work can have even more of an impact across the West Midlands.
The growth of the building’s rent-and-events model is dependent on increasing its events business, with “99%” of its space currently let to tenants, including Birmingham City University, ThinkTank, Bombardier and Hitachi.
It also plans to be much stronger in the way it promotes its charitable mission, using that as leverage to encourage organisations to choose its events spaces.
“2019 is for us very much about the charity,” said former finance director and interim chief executive Abbie Vlahakis. “We are a charity with an asset – all of the money we make from this building is for the charity.”
Millennium Point is 18 years old, having been a project funded by the Millennium Commission to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
It invested in its Platform space last year and has a range of spaces for hire, including its 350-seater auditorium with giant screen that used to be home to the IMAX cinema.
Vlahakis has two immediate priorities for the organisation.
She said: “We want to make the building work for us to generate the money. Then it is about ‘how do we make our impact greater?'”
The Trust facilitates the growth of STEM in the region, from funding school equipment to supporting events that encourage marginalised groups to consider STEM careers.
Its charitable activities range from discounted rents for STEM tenants, including the science museum ThinkTank, cash donations to STEM projects, and the Millennium Point Scholarship, which pays for one person to study at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment each year.
Vlahakis hopes that by being better at promoting the building’s charitable status she can create a virtuous circle – attracting more businesses to use the space, creating greater surpluses to invest in STEM projects, which in turn would lead to a larger and more diverse STEM sector.
Location is a key message for the organisation, which is two minutes from Moor Street and 10 minutes from New Street.
It is also at the heart of the city’s Eastside district and overlooks the building site that will become the home of Birmingham’s HS2 station at Curzon Street.
The changes have not all been outside the building, however. Vlahakis has been interim chief executive since January, following the quiet departure of former boss Judith Armstrong, and she acknowledged that 2018 had been a year of change for the organisation.
She said: “We are a charity with an events business, that probably wasn’t out there 6-12 months ago. We are definitely much more focused – and being perceived as focused by the outside market.”
Vlahakis had been at Millennium Point for just over a year, as finance director, which followed two decades working as a tax accountant for Grant Thornton and KPMG.
“I spent 20 years in industry working with shareholders,” she said. “It’s nice to be doing something that isn’t about making rich people richer.”