Tomorrow night, over 200 people will gather in the prestigious House of Lords terrace pavilion for the 2018 Marketing Derby Embassy.
We have been running these award-winning inward investment events for over 10 years – indeed the Financial Times fDi Magazine described them as the world’s best.
Our business model of being a genuine public-private partnership has enabled Marketing Derby to be innovative in how we promote place. Almost all of our competitors are local authority or LEP-based and so invariably struggle with this style of approach.
From time to time, other investment promotion agencies do hold promotion events in London, however, none have got even near to the intensity and consistency of our Marketing Derby events – 5,000 jobs attracted speaks for itself.
Our Embassies are incredibly well supported – by investors, Bondholders and our London ambassadors - and they tend to be held in premium locations such as Downing Street, Lambeth Palace, Pall Mall, the Ritz and Citibank’s Canary Wharf HQ.
Our company values are to be pro-active, make a difference and think Derby first and the Marketing Derby Embassies are the perfect manifestation of this.
A city like Derby cannot sit back and wait for the proverbial phone to ring, we have to go out and seek the attention of investors and generate enquiries.
We are acutely aware that once we are on the radar we must then continue to sustain the confidence of the investor in Derby. Simple fact is that we are in competition and investors have – and will exercise - choice.
Putting on a team Derby show – civic and business leadership in common cause, singing from the same hymn sheet – is a crucial part of this process.
Last year – across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster - our Embassy at the historic Lambeth Palace was called the Art of Innovation and included representing visuals from some of the city’s and county’s best companies and products.
The fact that we now promote the county of Derbyshire as well as the city of Derby has been welcomed and there is positive synergy between the two that is well understood by investors.
The event at the House of Lords will see this pitch evolve and we are delighted that the Earl of Burlington has agreed to provide keynote comments on the night.
On a wider picture, the links between London and Derby have always been strong which is why we launched a new magazine this month – Orrery – aimed at the London market.
Inward investment promotion starts with perception of place and Orrery is targeted at repositioning Derby and Derbyshire differently in the minds of potential investors. The magazine features some of our most innovative people and companies and to date response has been terrific.
There is no doubt that, as well as being a source of capital investment, London might also become a platform for company relocations and growth.
In the past, this has been focused on the relocation of government departments – from which Derby never benefited – but it is now becoming a bigger issue amongst business.
The catalyst is the incredible rising cost of doing business in London.
Sky high rents and rates, exorbitant staff wages and turnover, housing costs, travel costs and congestion all add up to something like an additional £20,000 - per employee per year - for basing a person or post in London.
Now, we would all accept there are certain roles that must be based in the capital but many businesses – and their employees – are starting to question the cost against the benefit.
Put simply, a company would save £10million per year by just moving 500 posts out of the capital. These days, in terms of office leases, most businesses would location plan for a stable 10 to 20 years at which point the figures for basing those posts in London get astronomical.
What business can argue against a saving of £100m to £200m over that period, just by shifting 500 posts out of the hot house that is London?
This isn’t just theory, there is a trend emerging. Manchester attracted the BBC and Bank of New York; Birmingham has Deutsche Bank and HS2 and Leeds has Burberry.
The push is bottom up as well as top down with many people considering moving out of the capital to improve their quality of life or even simply buy a home.
One of the features we included in Orrery is a cheeky reminder of what quality of housing you get, pound for pound, in Derbyshire compared to London. The average house price in London is £424,610 – that gets you a two bed flat above an East London shop or a detached house in Duffield.
The recent Marketing Derby board annual ‘away day’ was held at our office in London and we looked at whether to resource strategies in 2019 to put Derby on the map for companies considering relocation to the regions.
Our strengths include central location, transport access, quality workforce and living costs, but our weaknesses are anchored around poor quality office availability and a sclerotic planning experience holding back development.
We are working on tackling both of these – Derby City Council is looking to bring forward new city centre office developments to deal with market failure, something we are very supportive of. Complementing that we are working with the city to modernise planning and so deliver a smoother landing for investors.
The case for relocation to the regions is getting stronger. What we must now do is ensure that Derby is viable and credible option.