North vies with Scots and Welsh for US cash

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The Independent Online

The North of England is to begin marketing itself as a single region, launching itself into a £2.25m battle with Wales and Scotland for new American investment.

While Scotland and Wales have benefited from their national status and the romantic image of the Celts, the North's marketing efforts have so far been held back by rivalry between counties and cities.

But now, the North's three regional development agencies have concluded a joint marketing pilot project in Atlanta, Georgia, and are ready to appoint 17 staff to sell the North to American businesses not labouring under the misapprehension that the region means whippets, mills and Coronation Street terraces.

The agencies are establishing points of superiority over the Celts. Jon Moore, acting head of inward investment at Yorkshire Forward, the York-shire and Humberside agency, said: "We are positioning ourselves as the ideal base for US companies seeking a European base... American investors bringing bulky supplies across the Atlantic may value Merseyside, while 15 per cent of UK seaborne trade is out of Hull, Immingham and Grimsby."

The marketeers are also aiming to change perceptions about the size of the North. "The population of Yorkshire and the Humber is five million, the same as Scotland. There's a perception that Scotland is bigger," Mr Moore said.

His agency and those for the North-west and the North-east, who are selling the North from a one-person office in Atlanta, will expand to Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles from next April. Inward investment leads will be fed back to the three agencies, which will recommend prime locations from their area, based on infrastructure, availability of labour and other factors.

Local rivalries are the biggest threat to the North's new quest. Five years ago this was reflected in the myriad local marketing campaigns, from Corby and Wearside to Liverpool and Wirral. Even now, the agencies are planning separate brand campaigns.

In Scotland, sub-regions are forbidden by law to market themselves overseas lest they confuse the efforts of Locate in Scotland, Scottish Enterprise's inward investment arm, which spends £9m a year on overseas marketing. The Welsh Development Agency co-ordinates the promotion of Wales.

The North says its attributes include the presence of 50 per cent of the UK's manufacturing base and seven of the world's top 10 companies. But comparative marketing budgets suggest Scotland and Wales will take some beating. Scotland's comparative fiscal freedoms mean spending can be directed to win investors.

When Chunghwa, a Japanese manufacturer of cathode ray tubes, moved to Glasgow two years ago, a trunk road junction was built for the firm. For the North to do the same, applications would have to be made to the Department of the Environment.