Liverpool city region sent two mayors and a record private sector delegation to the Cannes global expo in March and the mission may pay dividends on a number of fronts. Tony McDonough reports
Senior Government officials are to meet with Liverpool City Region’s Combined Authority with a view to relocating Whitehall departments to Merseyside.
Frank Rogers, acting chief executive of the combined authority, said an approach was made by the Cabinet Office during the MIPIM commercial property and investment expo in Cannes in March.
He was at the event in the South of France with city region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram. Addressing business people in Liverpool this week, Mr Rogers said: “We were approached by someone from the Cabinet Office who wanted to talk to us about the relocation of Government departments to the city region.
“While we were there we also talked to a global financial institution with trillions of pounds to invest around the world and they want to come and meet us here.”
They were just two of the positives that came out of the record city region delegation to MIPIM last month which comprised representatives of 39 private sector firms as well as two Mayors – Mr Rotheram and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson.
On Wednesday, members of the delegation gathered in the offices of Deloitte in Liverpool city centre to discuss outcomes from the the mission, at an event organised by lobby group Downtown Liverpool in Business (DLIB). It was chaired by DLIB chief executive Frank McKenna.
Director of Marketing Liverpool, Chris Brown, told the group the presence of the two mayors at MIPIM had provided a “massive boost” for the city region’s profile on the world stage the expo offers, with more than 24,000 delegates this year.
“The fact that we had two mayors out there was massively important in terms of our message about us being serious about working with the private sector on what we are trying to achieve,” Mr Brown said.
“There has been a huge change since we first returned to MIPIM in 2014. It is not just about the Liverpool stand any more. People were attending events across Cannes.
“It created the opportunity for us to have discussions with potential investors and with Government. But MIPIM is just the spike in the calendar. The hard work starts once we get back.”
Mr Brown added there had been meetings with representatives from a number of European cities, in particular, Rotterdam, which is also building a waterfront football stadium similar to the one planned by Everton FC at Bramley Moore Dock.
He said there were further meetings planned between the two cities to share ideas on the stadium projects.
An interesting revelation came from delegation member Paul Grover, an associate director at building consultancy Arup. Mr Grover said potential investors from the Middle East and the Far East had attended Liverpool city region presentations without revealing themselves at the time.
He told the meeting this week: “One of them has followed up and been in touch with us to talk about potential investment opportunities.”
Mr Rogers added that what potential investors wanted to see evidence of was a collaborative approach in the city region between the public and private sectors. He explained: “It was really important we presented the city region in a collaborative way.
“I overheard someone say there had been a real buzz around the Liverpool stand. That was not just one or two people saying that. That was the general feedback from people as far afield as Beijing.
“It is so important to potential investors to see that partnership between the public and private is working well. They want security, managed risk and a long-term return on their investments.”
Mr Brown said it was not enough to offer potential investors future ideas and concepts – they wanted to see real live projects. This year Liverpool was able to offer that with opportunities including Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool), the former Festival Gardens site, Pall Mall, Everton’s new stadium and Liverpool Waters.
Addressing the meeting, KQ Liverpool chief executive Colin Sinclair, said: “It was vital we got the vision for the city region right and we showed that the public and private sectors were really aligned and that we have matured.
“I attended at couple of investor lunches during MIPIM and people really wanted to talk about Liverpool. The big challenge we have now is to attract the occupiers to the city region. We need to get Government relocations and we need to get private sector relocations from London and the South East.”
Final word went to another Liverpool MIPIM private sector delegate, Stephen Cowperthwaite, a regional senior director at commercial property agency GVA. He said: “It was great having the leadership of the two mayors at the events.
“It gave out a really positive message about what we are looking to achieve and the feedback that we have heard is that Liverpool smashed it.”