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Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the metropolitan county of West Midlands in England. It is the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, with a population of 1.145 million in the city proper, 2.92 million in the West Midlands metropolitan county and approximately 4.3 million in the wider metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area outside of London. Birmingham is known as the second city of the United Kingdom.
Located in the West Midlands region of England, approximately 100 miles (160 km) from London, Birmingham is considered to be the social, cultural, financial and commercial centre of the Midlands. Distinctively, Birmingham only has small rivers flowing through it, mainly the River Tame and its tributaries River Rea and River Cole – one of the closest main rivers is the Severn, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of the city centre.
Birmingham's economy is now dominated by the service sector. The city is a major international commercial centre and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. Its metropolitan economy is the second-largest in the United Kingdom.
Birmingham grew to prominence as a centre of manufacturing and engineering. The economy of Birmingham is dominated by the service sector, which accounted for 88% of the city's employment in 2012. Birmingham is the largest centre in Great Britain for employment in public administration, education and health; and after Leeds the second-largest centre outside London for employment in financial and other business services.
The wider metropolitan economy is the second-largest in the United Kingdom with a GDP of $121.1 billion. Major companies headquartered in Birmingham include the engineering company IMI plc, National Express, Patisserie Valerie, Claire's, and Mitchells & Butlers; including the wider metropolitan area, the city has the largest concentration of major companies outside London and the South East, hosting headquarters for Gymshark and Severn Trent Water. With major facilities such as the National Exhibition Centre and International Convention Centre, Birmingham attracts 42% of the UK's total conference and exhibition trade.
According to the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Birmingham was placed 51st in the world, which was the second-highest rating in the UK.
The city's quality of life rating has continued to improve over the years and Birmingham was ranked 49th in the world in the 2019 survey. This is the first time it has featured in the top 50. The Big City Plan of 2008 aims to move the city into the index's top 20 by 2026. An area of the city has been designated an enterprise zone, with tax relief and simplified planning to lure investment.
According to 2019 property investment research, Birmingham is rated as the number one location for "The Best Places To Invest in Property in the UK". This was attributed to a 5% increase in house prices and local investment into infrastructure.