Manchester has established itself as a premier league European city with a diversified economy’ says Sir Richard Lees

Greater Manchester set out its ambition to become a global player.

Leaders from across the public and private sector joined together for the official launch of the Greater Manchester Internationalisation Strategy.

This is a three year framework for action which will be worth over £2.2bn to the region’s economy.

Held at the Pavilion Theatre in Albert Square, home of Manchester International Festival, guests heard from Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester council and deputy mayor for economic growth and business at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, who introduced the strategy.

It sets out how the region aims to achieve its long-term vision to become a top global city by 2035.

The strategy identifies eight key priorities which frame the region’s ambitions.

These include becoming a global gateway for the UK and the North, a world centre for trade, UK magnet for foreign direct investment in key growth sectors and a strong portfolio of prime foreign capital investment opportunities promoted globally.

It will also aim to strengthen world leading international research capabilities and entrepreneurial talent, the best UK destination for international students, a world class visitor hub, and building the Manchester brand and reputation by telling its story to the global audience.

Sir Richard said: “This latest Greater Manchester Internationalisation Strategy is being launched at a critical time for the region.

“Manchester has established itself as a premier league European city with a diversified economy.

“We’ve now been ranked a top 10 global city for FDI Strategy by fDi Global Cities of the Future, and in Lonely Planet’s ‘best in travel’.

“The city’s profile has now never been stronger, with significant developments in key sectors, workforce skills, and quality of life to name a few.

“Our infrastructure is seeing remarkable development with Metrolink continuing its expansion across the region and Manchester Airport, which connects Manchester to over 200 destinations worldwide, recently reporting its 38th month of consecutive passenger growth.

“Greater Manchester is also finding itself at the centre of some seismic shifts in the political landscape to which it must respond. With Brexit likely to significantly change the way the UK deals with the rest of the world in terms of trade, FDI, and research, it’s vital that we make clear our continuing international ambitions.

“As we build on our success, we’ll look to strengthen not just Greater Manchester, but the entire Northern Powerhouse. We must work with our partners in the north of England to ensure that we’re able to achieve our shared objectives and build a stronger, more inclusive United Kingdom.”

The strategy will be implemented by a number of key delivery partners, including members of Manchester Growth Company (Marketing Manchester & MIDAS) and Department for International Trade (DIT) – in addition to private sector organisations, universities, and Manchester Airport.

The launch included a panel session discussing how the region’s universities, transport, manufacturing, culture and tourism sectors could support the strategy.

The session was moderated by Andy Bounds, north west correspondent, Financial Times; with the panel consisting of Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor, The University of Manchester; Collette Roche, acting MD, Manchester Airport, Wayne Jones OBE, member of the executive board – global sales & aftersales, MAN Diesel & Turbo SE; and Sally Balcombe, CEO, VisitBritain.

Asked about how Manchester can achieve a greater global presence, Prof Rothwell gave the university as an example of the importance of international students and staff.

She said: “At the university we have 11,000 international students, that will soon be 13,500 because students from the EU will count as international – that’s students from over 160 countries.

“We have 2,500 international staff, we have got links with 140 countries – that’s with universities and companies – we have got offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Dubai and links in the USA.

“So how do we strengthen this even more?

“Undoubtedly our international reputation is critical, investment is critical and there are opportunities for investment in our universities from government in spite of some challenges as well.”

Pointing out Manchester Airport’s work on the international stage, Collete Roche said: “We’ve been pleased with the traction we’ve had in the long-haul market where we have seen 10 per cent growth over the last three years.

“We’ve now got over 17 airlines to over 50 destinations, which is partly I think as a result of the collaboration of the people in this room and how we’ve managed to work as one city.

“What we do on long haul, which is pivotal to the strategy, is all about working as one ‘team Manchester’ to articulate what Manchester has got to offer globally, whether that’s tourist attractions, investment opportunities, or whether its business, and making sure that we package that in such a way so that we can attract and secure new routes.

“By doing that, we have brought in some fantastic economic value into the region.”

Asked about how Manchester fares in attracting international business compared to it competition, Sally Balcolmbe said the city was doing well, but more was needed.

“Tourism is one of the most competitive industries in the world, it’s one of the fastest growing. We talk about digital, tourism is growing twice the speed of digital.

“It really is a boom industry and it’s hugely competitive, so Manchester is doing well.

“But there’s more work to do.

“You know you have got a vibrant exciting city, but does someone sitting in China know about Manchester, have Mancunians heard about cities outside Beijing and Shanghai?

“Put yourself in the customers shoes and don’t assume they know everything that there is to do and see in Manchester, so building the brand is essential.

“We also need to build on the connectivity of the north.

“Manchester has got a strong position as the gateway to the north but we really really need to start building on that.

“There’s a market for the city of Manchester but there’s a bigger market for Manchester and the North as one.”

No debate about an international strategy can be discussed without mention of Brexit.

Wayne Jones said doing business in the UK needed to remain strong but simple.

He said: “Brexit is going to have a huge impact, and most people will say not a positive impact.

“If you take the construction industry which is reliant on foreign labour, there would be phenomenal affect if we don’t get this right.

“The biggest thing for me is the uncertainty.

“We have gone from what was a very reliable country with a top place in Europe to one where nobody is quite sure what’s going to happen.

“There is a lot of complexity around business, but there is a great phrase to ’keep it simple’ and my big worry is if we become difficult to do business with, then people will invest somewhere else, and that will not only have an affect on the UK, but also here in Manchester.”

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