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Bath Royal Crescent

Tim Bowles, mayor of the west of England, tells Sebastian Shehadi about the region’s strong economic story, evidenced by the high number of people and businesses moving there.

Q: What makes the west of England an attractive place for FDI?

A: This is the first year that the English combined authorities are in operation, so it’s a really exciting time for myself and other regional mayors because we are new, different and have an exciting story to tell.

As combined authorities, we’re working together with our other partner councils to come together with really compelling proven business cases around investment. So for the west of England, which is around the well-known cities of Bristol and Bath, we’ve got an incredibly strong economic story. We’re the only core city region in the UK that provides a net return to the government.

So for developers, we’ve got a brilliant business case. We’re one of the fastest [growing] regions in the UK and have more people relocating from London and the south-east to our region than anywhere else. So we’re incredibly well connected both within the UK and internationally, with an airport and a port as part of the region.

[We have] a really strong offering in terms of residential development; we’ll be delivering more than 100,000 new homes in the next 20 years and we’ve got really ambitious plans in terms of regeneration around business and leisure.

The west of England has been leading innovation and design in lots of areas for centuries. We’ve got a brilliant track record and four universities that have been at the forefront of that innovation, driving new ideas and business into the region. So that partnership we have with public sector, academic sector and private sector is a unique mix compared with lots of other parts of the world.

Q: What could make the region more attractive to FDI?

A: One of the biggest challenges we’ve got is our awareness on the global stage. We can talk really passionately, locally, about the offering we’ve got. I want to promote that message to the world. We have got a region that has been successful in international trade for generations – everybody has heard of Bristol or Bath. Our story now is what a strong economic region we are when we’ve come together. So that’s a huge challenge for us. People are already knocking at our doors to come and invest.

Q: What impact do you expect Brexit to have on your region?

A: The west has been an international trading region for generations. We have an opportunity now to take the really strong message we’ve got out onto a global stage. We’ve got a really strong presence in the aerospace industries; we are one of the leading destinations for that, so we’ve got huge businesses are really dependant on global exports.

We now have opportunities to work with them to promote that with the British government. We have lots of innovation, start-ups and new-tech companies. They are global companies working on an international stage.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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