Published by kind permission of the North East Times.
North East Times’ property writer Chris Dobson meets David Pattison, inward investment manager for Invest North East England, to discuss the impact of MIPIM 2018 – the ‘number one’ show for the property sector, held each year at OlympiaLondon.
I attended the first two MIPIM shows at Olympia and was impressed by the effort put in by exhibitors at the first one but not so much by the second show. What was your feeling about the impact of the MIPIM 2018?
The event was more compact, which actually worked in our favour. While many UK cities and regions were represented, there were some noticeable absences, including Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow and Sheffield. However, we did see an increase in footfall to our stand and I can confidently say that there were some excellent conversations taking place. We had more private sector partners join us this year than any year before and feedback has been very positive.
There is no doubt by looking at the list of exhibitors that this attracts significant exhibitors, such as economic development companies, professional services, developers, asset managers and so forth. Are these important sectors for you to target or is this simply flag-waving for the North East in a highly competitive sector?
To be honest, this isn’t our core activity, we spend the majority of our time working with potential inward investors – ‘end users’ if you like – who will create the job opportunities in the offices and industrial units across the region. However, as the most appropriate regional body, with very strong links to the public and private sector, it makes a lot of sense to lead this activity. The North East has some excellent development and investment opportunities and it is important for these to be showcased on the biggest stage.
I know enquiries and general interest shown in the North East message take a great deal of time to turn into serious enquiries but can you indicate what sort of level of interest you received?
They do indeed, but I am confident that the quality of conversations taking place on the stand resulted in some firm enquiries for the region. We won’t know for some time how these progress, but you have to be in it to win it, as they say! A particular highlight this year was the announcement of the plans for Gateshead Quays, which was very high profile. We also had some good conversations with Graham Stuart MP, UK Minister for Investment at DIT. Much of the event is about relationship building.
Naturally, I need to mention Brexit; what impact is this having on overall sentiment?
Without getting political, it is clearly a concern for us as foreign investors are taking a more cautious approach to any investment decisions. Like everyone, regardless of their stance on Brexit, we just need to see some clarity to help us move forward.
Your particular skill is inward investment and the region has been very successful in this regard. How does the inward investment process work for the region given local authorities and county councils appear to do this themselves? Is there a danger of conflicting messaging?
We describe the model as ‘hub and spoke’ with our team as the hub. We’ve got some exceptional local authority teams in the region and collectively we work well together to ensure our messaging is consistent. We’re in daily contact with most partners and are all part of an extended team. Whilst the local authorities are very capable of landing investment within their own boundaries, we can represent the region (seven local authorities), which ensures a much stronger message including all the regional opportunities and assets is provided from a central point of contact. We are essentially a one-stop shop!
I believe in the North East as a place to live and work and, indeed, was recently described as a brilliant ‘Newcastle ambassador’; what are the key selling points for the region?
We spend a lot of time articulating our selling messages (backed up by data) as they vary from sector to sector, but generically speaking we’ve got very strong sectors in digital, advanced manufacturing, energy, business services and life sciences with some excellent development and investment opportunities. We’re a very cost-competitive region, with a loyal and skilled workforce, five universities generating a pipeline of talent, and a great quality of life. It’s a privilege to be an ambassador for this incredible region.
Finally, are you confident about the region’s fortunes going forward into 2019?
Absolutely. We’ve made some excellent progress in recent years and are seeing results from our hard work. There are clear challenges in a very competitive environment; we’ve already talked about Brexit, but the North East has a very strong offer to inward investors and we’ve got some excellent opportunities on the horizon in the shape of the International Advanced Manufacturing Park and Helix in Newcastle, to name but two.