Inward investment consultant Adam Breeze of Breeze Strategy says local councils can cut out the waste in their place marketing and still attract new jobs and investors to their area.
The UK taxpayer currently spends £250 million every year on place marketing and investment promotion activities to attract new companies. Some of this represents excellent value for money; a lot of it does not.
Properly done, inward investment programmes are one of the few proven ways to attract new money and better jobs to our towns and cities. Smart local authorities recognise the potential in making themselves
attractive to potential investors, but simply throwing more money at it, misses a unique opportunity to improve effectiveness and at the same time, cut the burden on taxpayers.
Investment promotion doesn’t have to be expensive. Careful targeting, intelligent research and an informed approach to high-growth businesses can be achieved with a small, business-savvy team, armed with an appropriate travel budget. Where expenditure can run out of control is in the associated paraphernalia of place marketing.
Talk to real inward investors and those who decide where companies locate and they will tell you straight: it’s not about new logos or clever straplines; they’re rarely impressed by glossy brochures, DVDs or sales gimmicks; they don’t care that a celebrity came from your town; they’re oblivious to your latest advertising campaign; and they don’t have the time to read about your fabulous quality of life, motivated workforce and strategic location.
What inward investors want are clear cut, bespoke propositions. A business case to invest in your area, backed up by hard numbers. And to help them through the process, they want to deal with knowledgeable, efficient problem-solvers that help them cut through the red tape. They want more practical support and less of the fluffy stuff.
Cutting costs and eliminating waste is one thing, but expenditure is only one side of the equation. Direct contributions from local councils, regional development agencies or central government represent more than 95% of inward investment funding in the UK. Local authorities should be more creative in their search for resources in the future.
Until the RDAs were created in 1999, we had inward investment organisations which were limited companies, receiving contributions from local councils, but also from developers, agents, lawyers and the
utility providers that stood to benefit from inward investment. These organisations were successful in helping attract thousands of new jobs to the UK. Today, only a handful of locations bother attracting private funds. The Mersey Partnership is one example, and it attracts sponsorship from more than a hundred businesses worth £750,000. Locate in Kent and Think London are others. It’s no coincidence that these
agencies are often cited among the most effective in the UK.
Inward investment promotion and place marketing urgently needs a culture change. Councils that grasp the nettle and respond to business needs in the right way will attract the jobs and investment that will
spur local economic recovery.
To download "How to ‘Do More For Less’ and Still Win Inward Investment" click here.