City must get on the front foot, says council leader
NOTTINGHAM'S political leader has called on the city to get on the "front foot" over the economic momentum created by massive investment in its infrastructure.
Jon Collins spoke out after the city wooed potential investors at MIPIM, the international property and development exhibition in France.
Team Nottingham, the private-sector-led partnership which leads Nottingham's presence at the Cannes event, was able to point to nearly £800 million worth of live investment in projects like the tram, the A453 widening and the transport interchange at the railway station.
Speaking to Business Post, city council leader Mr Collins urged businesses based here and involved in developing the city to make the most of investments which gave the city a "unique" opportunity to open up key development sites, such as the Nottingham Enterprise Zone.
He said: "For a long period, we have looked at ourselves and we have looked at challenges we have got to address rather than the advantages that we can shout about.
"I'm not saying everything is rosy but we really have tackled the challenges that perhaps a decade ago we had a reputation for. Rather than apologising for those issues, we should now be on the front foot about all these investments.
"This can make a difference with potential investors because people can see that things are actually happening now in Nottingham. Because of that infrastructure work, you have got people in work and when you get people working, you get a market."
He added: "Compared to other cities, we are actually doing pretty well in terms of employment and we've got levels of investment in ways that other cities haven't – it gives that sense of momentum to the city and people can actually physically see the investments taking place on projects which are going to improve their ability to do business.
"The reason we have got all these investments is that we've worked hard at it – not just the city, but people involved in developing the city – over a long period of time.
"We have got investment, we have got political stability in the city, and we have been able to develop a strategy for the medium term in ways that other cities have not been able to. Other cities have chopped and changed; Nottingham hasn't."
Mr Collins – who had cycled from London to Cannes to raise money for a leukaemia charity – attended a number of Team Nottingham events and joined other council leaders for a presentation about HS2.
The city council pulled out of a direct presence at MIPIM three years ago, citing financial pressures. Since then, a group of city businesses has officially represented the city under the Team Nottingham banner, paying for the presence of key inward investment, planning and regeneration officials from the council.
Most of England's major cities have continued to fund a heavyweight presence at MIPIM, with Manchester and Birmingham spending heavily on a high profile.
Mr Collins was non-committal on whether Nottingham City Council would lead the city's presence at MIPIM again but said: "I think it's an event that has got a lot of potential for us. It's important that we're seen here, that we make a lot of contacts, talk to developers and tell them what Nottingham has got to offer and sell our city in the same way that others do.
"You have got cities here from across the EU, all of whom are trying to attract inward investment. I know in the past people have pointed a finger and wondered whether it was worth it. What I would say is that the money we spend is limited and that if we weren't here, we would be missing this opportunity."
He added: "We have to make decisions about what is the appropriate level to be operating at. We have to look at it each year and see whether or not we stick with what we have got or change it. We would need to be convinced it was money well spent.
"It's as much about having the right people making the right contacts as it is about a stand. There are some cities with a huge physical presence which must have cost them a large amount of money and I'm not sure that is necessary. The most important thing is that Invest in Nottingham is here and talking to the right people."
This year, Nottingham had a shared presence in the official MIPIM exhibition centre with Derby, a stand part-funded by the Local Enterprise Partnership for the two cities and counties, D2N2.
Mr Collins says he backs the LEP but believes it might be more effective if it also took in Leicester and Leicestershire, which currently has its own separate LEP.
"I think the LEP is important to us," he said."My personal view is that it's a question of whether or not we want it to remain a body representing two cities and counties or extend it to include Leicester."
Nottingham announced two deals at MIPIM this year, one of them a land deal which should progress £30m plans for the development of 200 rented properties at the Old Sandfield school site, in Lenton, by UK Regeneration.
Mr Collins said: "It is interesting to see the concentration of people and developers here at MIPIM. It was at MIPIM a couple of years ago that we had our first conversations with UK Regeneration and we have now been able to make the announcement about Sandfield. It's important to recognise that you don't get results instantly here."