This is an opinion piece from the Greater Manchester Business Week Magazine from Thursday, March 10, 2011:
“So I’m here in Cannes in the south of France and I am wearing steel capped boots, not my usual opened-toed sandals, because MIPIM is much tougher this year.
It’s not just the weather that’s not being as kind to us all, the economic climate is still just as unfriendly. And, who knows, I may need the boots to kick down some doors!
What is noticeable going around the Palais exhibition hall is that a lot of cities have not come at all this year, or if they have, they have come with a far smaller contingent. It is very difficult for local authorities, particularly for politicians who are having to make cuts at home, to turn up and be seen in the south of France.
However, I am very pleased that Manchester is here. And I am pleased with the way Manchester is handling it.
It’s the strongest ever private sector presence and they are funding it. From the city, there is only Sir Howard and one other officer here and it has been done on a very tight budget.
What is also different is they way all these companies come together with one single voice about Manchester.
When you go to other stands you are faced with competing brands and companies and projects but for the 49 partners here, Manchester is that company, it is the project. If it succeeds we all succeed and that force of numbers gives a very clear message to the world.
When I first came to Manchester 27 years a go I was attracted by the confidence. Back then it was about the music and the clubs and Manchester had a huge confidence and swagger, arrogance possibly.
I don’t think it is any coincidence that the people who were involved in the music business and bars back then, Colin Sinclair who is now with Bruntwood, Nick Johnson, who chairs Marketing Manchester, and myself, are now involved with property and regeneration.
And in the same way that Manchester took to the world stage with music, so it should be shouting loudly at MIPIM about what a great place it still is.
This week also lets you remind yourself what others are doing. It is dangerous to get complacent and introspective. Manchester is competing not against UK cities but globally and it was interesting to see the scale of ambition of some of our European neighbours at the key cities debate. They too have faced challenges and are responding.
Barcelona has a new port, new airport, high speed rail tunnel and is opening a new university campus to the world. Interesting too that both it and Hamburg are building thousands of new apartments to grow that central population, something that I believe is crucial for cities to thrive.
It was the first time that I had met Jim O’Neill from Goldman Sachs who spoke at the event. He’s a Mancunian and a fellow Manchester United supporter to boot so I cannot think why our paths have not crossed before.
He put the funding crisis that we are experiencing in the UK and wider Europe into perspective. For the rest of the world it is a North Atlantic problem and on the darkest days we should remember that other economies, notably China and Brazil, are thriving. The investment world is not going to end!
Jim’s going to come in for a coffee and chat some more next time he is in Manchester. So at least there’s been one positive outcome from the week.
They are long days and while MIPIM is great for seeing what the world is doing I tend to only do business in the UK. But the people I want to see are all here- chief executives of councils, banks and other developers to swap ideas with. It allows you to have half an hour with them in a very efficient manner, much better than charging around the country.
And as we are amongst the short-listed companies bidding for the Olympic Village I have spent some time on the London stand. We are in there amongst much bigger companies from the capital and overseas and it helps spread the message of what Urban Splash is all about. We find out in April who is in the final three.
I also met a developer in London who wants to work with us, the artist who is doing some public art with us in New Islington and a guy from Holland who enthusiastically told me that Urban Splash was the most innovative, ambitious and progressive developer in the world.
So MIPIM’s quite good for a confidence boost too.”Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash 2 Comments