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Brexit may cause headwinds for Nottingham but the city is developing its science and tech hub regardless, and looking to expand links with China and India, council leader Jon Collins tells Sebastian Shehadi.

Q: How is Brexit affecting Nottingham?

A: It depends on what deal we come to. I think it’s a national catastrophe and ultimately people, the economy, and cities like Nottingham will be worse off. Currently, on the government’s model, we’re probably at the high end of damage. As a core UK city, we took a delegation to see [chief EU negotiator for Brexit] Michel Barnier and they are very clear that the EU is working within a framework of law and precedent, and there are various models. Based on the government’s existing redlines we’re in for a free-trade deal like with Canada, not ‘like Canada, plus, plus, plus’ as some of our idiot national politicians are advocating. It will take a long time to negotiate and it won’t be frictionless trade, and that will be a good deal worse for the UK, but not for everyone. For example, businesses that only trade within the UK will benefit, but most will not, especially in the service industry. When we recently visited our German sister city, Karlsruhe, the response from the city’s head of economic development was: ‘We’re not aware of any company in Germany that is looking to start or develop its link with the UK [because [of uncertainty]. It’s easier to focus on Eastern Europe.’

Q: Is FDI key to Nottingham’s economy?

A: Attracting FDI is a challenge for us. Nottingham is developing pretty rapidly. We’ve got the fundamentals: a good location that’s not far from London and is close to an airport, great public transport, a remodeling of the city centre, two great universities, great schools and countryside nearby, and plenty of investment opportunities. Over the past 10 to 15 years we’ve seen new housing, crime down, big improvements in education in our schools, investment in the public realm. So there’s a whole range of things that have come together. Our challenge is in driving spec investment, in part, because we don’t have the yields or land values of London, Birmingham and Manchester. So for those who have the time and money, the returns are greater elsewhere. Until we’re able to establish high yields, and there’s an element of chicken and egg to this, then that will be our biggest challenge in attracting investment.

Q: What are some of latest business developments?

A: Major development is the regeneration of the city centre, southside, for an estimated £250m. There’s the historic castle regeneration and a brand new skills college for £60m. There’s also new tramlines coming in from the east and west of the city. A fully integrated tram hub with 38km of tram, making it the biggest network outside Manchester. There’s also the new HS2 train line that will be running close to Nottingham [upon complete in 2030]. Instead of taking an hour and 15 minutes to Birmingham, it will take 20 minutes. Similarly for London, Sheffield and Leeds. The East Midlands airport is looking to double its capacity for freight and travel. It’s the biggest commercial airport outside London, and one of the biggest freights hubs in Europe.

Q: What are the main sectors for attracting FDI?

A: We’ve had to had to build new laboratories in the city to accommodate the growth of the life sciences industries and start-up bioscience companies that spin out of Nottingham University and Trent University, which are attracting people from around the world. We have targeted efforts in China [Ningbo] and India [Chandigarh and Dehli] through Nottingham University, which has campuses there. So we’re developing an investment bridge this is one way we’re raising our global awareness. We’re also using the local Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Chinese populations to forge links abroad. In China, you don’t get a look-in unless the groundwork has been done through relationships. Similarly with India, actually having people who have those links gives us a greater change to provide better assurances that people need for trade.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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