Birmingham hunts for North American investors

Marketing Birmingham’s inward investment programme Business Birmingham is running a roadshow to target the region’s top investor, North America, during 2013.

Birmingham from The Cube

Birmingham from The Cube

North America is one of strongest sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) for the West Midlands. During 2011/12 it was responsible for over a third of all FDI projects into the region, more than any other market. In the past five years North American businesses have made over 100 investments into the West Midlands, creating or safeguarding at least 15,000 jobs.

North American companies are continuing to choose Birmingham. In late 2012, Vancouver-based serious games developer Ayogo – recently listed as one of Canada’s top 15 startups – moved to the Custard Factory in Digbeth with help from Business Birmingham. Around the same time, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which is headquartered in Chicago, bought the Hyatt Regency Birmingham and will be investing into the venue’s facilities in the coming months.

Wouter Schuitemaker, Investment Director at Business Birmingham,

Wouter Schuitemaker, Investment Director at Business Birmingham

Wouter Schuitemaker, Investment Director at Business Birmingham, said:  “To drive local economic growth and employment, we must continue to attract US and Canadian companies here. North America remains one of the biggest investors into the UK and this region in particular, which is a trend we expect to continue despite the growth of developing economies.”

Business Birmingham’s roadshow comprises three trips to the US and Canada throughout the year and will cover at least 12 key cities. The first trip, which took place earlier this month, included stops at Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Business Birmingham team attended a number of networking events and presentations to raise Birmingham’s profile with North American companies, and had one-to-one meetings with more than 15 potential and current investors.

In line with its focus on sectors that have the potential to attract the most investment, the Business Birmingham team also used the visit to approach companies in the creative, digital media, and financial services industries. These sectors can benefit from a range of incentives in Birmingham, such as the city centre Enterprise Zone – which can offer rates relief, relaxed planning and improved broadband – and tailored packages of support from Marketing Birmingham’s partners.

Schuitemaker added:  “North America makes up over 40% of Business Birmingham’s overseas investment pipeline, which is why it is so important for us to visit this market right now. Strong relationships are crucial to securing investment. Meeting potential investors face-to-face demonstrates that we are serious about securing their business – which North American companies like to hear.

“As well as meeting businesses that are hoping to set up a base in the UK, we used the first visit to update partners such as UK Trade & Investment and the British American Business Council. It was also valuable to visit the offices of investors such as Ayogo and make sure we are doing everything possible to help these companies flourish in Birmingham.”

Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo, commented: “We’re a young company growing quickly, and so reducing complexity and uncertainty in our expansion plans is key. Business Birmingham has really exceeded our expectations, helping us get set up with everything from office space, to accounting and legal support, to introductions into the increasingly vibrant business community in Birmingham. The city of Birmingham made perfect sense to our business, and Business Birmingham truly helped us hit the ground running.”

Two more trips are planned for June and September. They are expected to include stops at New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston and Cleveland. The cities all have strengths in Business Birmingham’s key target sectors – including life sciences, advanced engineering and financial services.

The Business Birmingham team will also use the roadshow to promote the value of potential direct routes to Birmingham Airport following its £65 million runway extension. Direct flights between the West Coast of the USA and Birmingham will be possible for the first time in 2014.

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