Birmingham, is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands county of England. It is the most populous British city outside London, with a population of 1,028,701 (2009 estimate), and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the United Kingdom's second most populous urban area with a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census). Birmingham's metropolitan area, which includes surrounding towns to which it is closely tied through commuting, is also the United Kingdom's second most populous with a population of 3,683,000.
A medium-sized market town throughout the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide developments in science, technology and industrial organisation, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society.By 1791 it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world".Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practicing a wide variety of specialised and highly-skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation, and provided a diverse and resilient economic base for an industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London, and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy
With a city GDP of $90bn (2008 est., PPP), Birmingham has the second-largest urban economy in the United Kingdom and the 72nd-largest in the world. Although the city grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2008 accounted for 86% of its employment. Birmingham is the largest centre for employment in public administration, education and health in Great Britain, and after Leeds and Glasgow it is the third-largest centre for employment in banking, finance and insurance outside London. It is ranked as a gamma- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
Two of Britain's largest banks were founded in Birmingham – Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds Banking Group) in 1765 and the Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank) in 1836 – as well as Ketley's Building Society, the world's first building society, in 1775. In 2010, Cushman & Wakefield stated that Birmingham was the third best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business, and the 18th best in Europe.
Tourism is also an increasingly important part of the local economy. With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city's sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors.
The city's three Universities, (Aston University, University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University) and two University colleges have over 65,000 students and employ around 15,000 staff, making a significant contribution to the city's economy as well as its research and innovation base.