Construction and engineering firm Burns & McDonnell may have been born in Kansas City, but Jonathan Chapman tells us why they’re making a home in the West Midlands.
As a US company new to the UK, choosing where to open our UK headquarters was a critical decision. We were excited by what the West Midlands could offer us in terms of access to the best resources, great transport links and an entrepreneurial culture driven by the new Mayoral structure.
Given the region’s heritage as the industrial heart of the country, we felt that this new structure could help to get things moving and really make a difference. So last August we made the decision to back the West Midlands and open our first UK office on Broad Street.
A year since the election of the first Mayor, we believe there is still much to be excited about.
In the US we have found the Mayoral model to be highly successful, working hand-in-hand with business and residents to get the job done and find solutions that are right for each city and state. It has the capacity to help improve infrastructure, boost the local economy, and increase the focus on creating jobs for talented people.
Much of this comes down to leadership. Our US hometown of Kansas City, America’s most central city, faced many similar challenges to Birmingham and the West Midlands. Its Mayor has focused on restoring public pride and confidence in the Kansas City region, updating transportation networks and expanding the economy through technology. He has brought together all the key players and the necessary infrastructure projects to make Kansas City one of the most popular cities to start a business. Among his headline achievements is making the city the “centre of the American renaissance.”
Back to the UK, we’ve been impressed with the welcome we have received from the West Midlands and the real desire across the region to attract new businesses, create jobs and make the investments necessary to improve infrastructure. A key component of this will be delivering the critical infrastructure – rail, energy, communications and business support – to make all of this a reality.
We hope to make our contribution to the region’s future success by offering some of our experiences and successes in the US.
When it comes to new infrastructure, using the latest technology will be vital. We know this from experience and it’s what people expect. We have collaborated with city mayors and Governors across the US, working to construct America’s first smart corridor as part of a modern tram network through downtown Kansas City. This opened in 2016 and has logged over 4 million to date. The project leveraged overhead power to install free WiFi, CCTV, smart LED lighting, interactive information kiosks, safety sensors, parking space monitors, and storm water management technology. The project has resulted in attracting over $2 billion in private investment along the route.
What we’ve learned is that it’s vital that all of West Midlands’ great employers, universities and civic organisations work together for the benefit of our region. We all have a stake in its future success and need to work as one team. Since making the West Midlands our home, we have become increasingly confident about what the future holds, ready to make our contribution to seeing the West Midlands at the heart of the UK’s prosperity once again.
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