Birmingham & Black Country

Dunlop is latest big brand to quit Birmingham

Fort Dunlop Image copyright PA
Image caption The company said it had worked for 'months' to look for alternative sites in Birmingham

Dunlop is the latest big-name brand to leave Birmingham. Why are such brands leaving and what happens to the communities they leave behind?

The tyre manufacturer, whose former factory - the towering Fort Dunlop - dominates part of the city skyline, has said the lease on its Erdington factory will expire on 1 September and, as no other site is available, it will seek to move production abroad.

It is far from being the only brand to vacate Birmingham in recent years.

So which other big names have left the city? And what kind of impact do such closures have on the communities they leave behind?

Hovis

Image copyright PA
Image caption Hovis closed its doors in Garretts Green in April with the loss of 610 jobs

The bread-brand known for its nostalgic boy-on-a-bicycle advertising campaign made a sudden break with tradition in Birmingham in April.

Fifty years of baking history came to an end when Premier Foods, the makers of Hovis, closed its Garretts Green factory with the loss of 610 jobs.

The firm blamed the loss of a £75m contract with the Co-op for its departure from the city.

John Higgins, regional secretary for the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, said many of the workers who had been laid off remained out of work.

"It was a catastrophe for that area," he said. "Most of the people we have kept in touch with are having a terrible time finding work.

"Birmingham used to be noted as one of this country's main industrial centres but, in my view, there are now more companies leaving the city than coming into it.

"A lot of the Hovis workforce we are in touch with were from the lower end of the job scale and now shelf stacking and agency work is all they can hope for."

Rover

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mark France, whose family worked at Longbridge, says the community remains shocked by the plant's closure

In 2005, a century after car production began in the West Midlands, the famous name of Rover disappeared from the city's Longbridge site, resulting in about 6,000 job losses.

MG Rover had gone into administration and the company was broken up, with parts and equipment shipped to China.

Today, Longbridge is the subject of a £1bn redevelopment, with housing, supermarkets and offices replacing the famous factory.

Industrial history campaigner Mark France, whose grandfather, father and uncles once worked at Longbridge, said he still feels shocked at what happened to the plant.

"The closure of Longbridge is still affecting people across Birmingham and North Worcestershire now, even though it's getting on for nearly 10 years since the plant closed," he said.

"It's been a big cultural shock for people. I used to live in Rubery and virtually two thirds of the people I grew up with had parents who worked at Longbridge."

He said some of the skilled workers had taken their expertise abroad but others had faced further redundancies.

"The car industry is picking up again now but many of the workers who learned their skills at Longbridge are coming up to retirement age, so there's a bit of a skills gap," he said.

"This industrial landscape and heritage is often considered as something ugly, that it was good to eradicate. But not everybody feels that way."

HP

Image caption In 2007, Heinz moved production of HP sauce from Aston to Holland with the loss of 125 jobs

If ever there was a taste associated firmly with Birmingham, HP sauce is it.

The famous condiment with its label showing the Houses of Parliament was invented in the Midlands and made in Aston.

However, in 2007, owners Heinz closed the factory and moved production to Holland, with the loss of 125 jobs.

Unions at the time described the move as a "savage decision".

While the loss of each brand can be attributed to a different cause, Professor David Bailey, from Aston Business School, said it was important the city did everything it could to retain such big names.

"Dunlop leaving Birmingham is a big blow for this city region which has been busy repositioning itself on the cutting-edge of automotive technology," he said.

The Dunlop brand, he said, helped project the city as a "motor sport hub". He called for more flexibility for firms looking to invest in the UK.

"Losing several hundred high-quality jobs and 125 years of history is of course bad enough," he added. "But the loss of Dunlop Motorsport is, I feel, damaging for Birmingham's wider hopes of boosting its manufacturing sector."

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