City is showing the world it's a seriously good investment

OK, it’s the height of the summer, the so-called ‘silly’ season.

I guess it’s silly because, whilst most people are lounging on a hot Mediterranean beach, we remain in Derby, writing and reading the Telegraph business pages.

So, I’ll kick-off with a summer quiz.

What’s the connection between Bristol in Connecticut, Kazan in Russia and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia?

Don’t cheat. I’ll give the answer later in this piece but be assured it is connected to attracting inward investment into Derby.

Marketing Derby’s inward investment strategy is simple.

We don't sit and wait for the phone to ring, far from it, we go out and seek or, as we say, create enquiries.

Central to this is clarity about the sectors we are targeting and identifying the best way of grabbing their attention. In other words, we only chase companies who we believe can run successful enterprises in Derby.

Many of these conversations are held in London and, in almost every case, prior knowledge of Derby is pretty thin or outdated. With most investors we start with a blank sheet.

Our opening pitch is therefore crucial – first impressions and all that.

We start by explaining the Derby story, core to which are two essential messages - the strength of our local economy and the massive amount of investment recently made into the city.

The fact that Derby is home to some of the world’s major companies opens up investors’ thinking.

Being home to brands such as Bombardier, Intu, Rolls-Royce, Sky TV and Toyota gets us noticed every time.

It’s not just the names, it’s the scale. These are big companies and in Derby they directly employ over 25,000 people, supporting a vibrant SME community.  

The fact that Rolls-Royce headquarters its civil aerospace, nuclear and corporate functions in Derby, employing 15,000 people simply blows their socks off.

I often say that most cities would give their hind teeth to host just one of the above.

Being home to such big players is a strength, but it brings some weaknesses, the most obvious of which is the vulnerability that comes with potential overreliance.

Recent weeks have seen some speculation that illustrates this.

For example, there has been talk of Bombardier cashing in on its transport division which is a considerably better performer than its aerospace division.

At Rolls-Royce, it’s been the other way round; the aerospace division is flying high but again there is talk of so-called ‘activist investors’, calling for a break-up of the company.

Yet, here in Derby, we see both companies making significant investments in their long-term infrastructure.

Over at Toyota, profits have risen 10% in 2015 but there have been fears of the crisis at Calais impacting on logistics.

Intu has seen profits rise and the occupancy rate in Derby is 98%, generating £30m of income per year.

The city is well aware of this and we know we cannot control world events. That’s why our economic development strategy is based on developing the city to best help the big boys succeed and focus on diversifying to encourage start-ups and SMEs in growth.

So, what is the link that lies behind the cities in the quiz?

Simple really,

Riyadh is the home of Saudi Airlines who recently signed a $2bn contract with Rolls-Royce for engines designed and built in Derby – probably the largest single contract of 2015.

Kazan is where, last week, City of Derby swimming club hero Adam Peaty became World Champion, three times.

Finally Bristol in Connecticut is the HQ of ESPN who, last week, ranked Derby as being a top ten UK sporting city and number one in the midlands. Some accolade.

The connection is that investors are attracted by places where ambition and talent are nurtured. It’s no surprise that Manchester and London top the list. Funny, they top the inward investment lists too.

The good news is that Derby is now invariably there or thereabouts in any of these lists and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will knit all three of the above into our investor narrative.