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Investing in South Wales

17 December 2019

Bayside city development

Ken Poole, Head of Economic Development at Cardiff Council, got proceedings underway at the latest Cardiff Business School Breakfast Briefing by contextualising foreign direct investment in South Wales in comparison to its European and UK national counterparts.

He showed how investment dropped in the UK, Germany and France in 2019, a trend thought to be linked to political and economic uncertainty across the Western European nations.

But Mr Poole showed how market trend analysis data suggests that businesses instead seem to be considering all parts of Europe for their investments. And although promising for inward investment going forward, this means greater competition for sub regions such as South Wales.

“This means raising our game to be able to compete effectively with existing and emerging competitors.”

Ken Poole Head of Economic Development at Cardiff Council

Drivers of investment

He outlined some of the reasons why such businesses are investing in South Wales.

Focusing on the automotive sector and the business and financial service sectors, Mr Poole showed how access to a skilled workforce, education/training and government support were important to attracting investment from a wide range of sectors.

Reflecting on testimonials from clients across a range of sectors, he observed that: “They all highlight being able to attract talented people as a driver of investment. Also, they talk about the role of universities and support from the Welsh Government and public sector bodies.”

Mr Poole concluded by suggesting that we learn from feedback such as this and look to put more resource into and prioritise existing investors as well as looking to attract new investment from added value sectors.

Heather Myers, Chief Executive Officer of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, followed Mr Poole’s presentation by picking up on business perspectives of operating in Wales.

Ms Myers started by sharing an overview of the South East Wales business landscape home to 60% of Welsh businesses - 112,000 in total – 94% of which have 10 or fewer employees.

Supporting businesses

The substantive section of her presentation demonstrated some of the fundamental reasons why businesses choose to operate in Wales, including:

  • Location – 2 hours to London, M4/5 connection, access to EU markets into Ireland and freight connectivity through Cardiff Airport.
  • Workforce – high proportion of graduates in Cardiff workforce, academic partnerships from universities, young talent and apprenticeships supported by a Wales-specific education system.
  • Professional services - £1.4bn turnover compared with £1.5bn in Bristol.
  • Sector diversity – creative industry, fintech, cyber-security and compound semi-conductor
  • Ecosystem – interconnected network of contacts.

Before concluding, Ms Myers weighed up the support for business with the challenges faced by the region too.

“The attitudes and aspirations of Generation Z coming into the workplace are different. Well-being and mental health, agile working, places you can do business and raise a family are just some of the requirements. We have such an amazing quality of life here in Wales, and I don’t think we make enough of it. Provided we can put the right infrastructure in place, I think we’ve got a really strong proposition for the future.”

Heather Myers Chief Executive Officer of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce

The final presentation was delivered by Clare Taylor, an Associate Town Planner, from the event’s sponsor Bruton Knowles.

As a representative of the Cardiff-based property consultants, Ms Taylor moved the focus of the briefing onto the planning process, by showing how this might help or hinder the right investment to the right location, here in South Wales.

She contextualised planning’s relationship to economic development and its role in seeking to provide land which responds to economic strategy and meets the needs of market demand.

Next, Ms Taylor provided a brief overview of the planning process in Wales. She explained how planners face challenges due to the complexity and longevity of the region’s Local Development Plan (LDP) process.

The final focus of Ms Taylor’s presentation considered emerging Welsh Planning Policy.

Enabled by the unique legislative environment in Wales which bore the Planning Wales Act and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, both in 2015, planning has shifted its focus to sustainable place-making.

She said: “The multi-faceted concept of placemaking now forms the core of Planning Policy Wales Ed. 10...”

“It describes place-making as an inclusive process involving all those with an interest in the built and natural environment and considers issues at all levels from global, like climate change, to local, like impact on neighbours.”

Clare Taylor Associate Town Planner at Bruton Knowles

In conclusion, Ms Taylor explained how this legislative environment has enabled South Wales to sit at the forefront of a new approach to planning; one that foregrounds bio-diversity and equality, to deliver long-term and sustainable economic benefits to the region.

The Executive Education Breakfast Briefing Series is a network that enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

If you were unable to attend, catch up with this live stream of the event.

The next briefing and first of the New Year, entitled Recruiting with 2020 vision, will take place on 30 January 2020 and demonstrate how businesses can attract, recruit and retain some of the UK’s best graduate talent to ensure future success.

Register now.

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