SWZ: As a word of introduction, could you tell us what your role is in IFB 2016?
Chris Heyes: Certainly. I am head of International and responsible for encouraging delegations from all over the globe to come to IFB2016.
Why Liverpool twice in two years?
Well, the concept was one we presented to government and such was the success in 2014 that we have been awarded this UK event in 2016. Just recently, in fact Liverpool has been confirmed as the IFB location for 2018 and 2020. Continuity will bring expertise and success – economic development is not a game to try once and then walk away from.
It is being described as the biggest business event of the year in the whole wide world. How can you justify such a description?
Through the fact that in the three-week period there will be more than 70 events taking place. Other locations may boast of more participants at a single event but as a coordinated three-week festival, there is no comparison elsewhere.
What does Manchester think about Liverpool’s success in attracting international companies?
It is very pleased in that the event although held in Liverpool is a UK one attracting businesses from all over the globe and is therefore convenient and vital to Manchester’s growth also.
How real is the northwest powerhouse to being a reality?
It is a reality already – a huge expanded conurbation with a population of over 7 million people attracting inward investment and very much part of government plans for developing infrastructure and high-speed connections to all of the UK – all this of course with a little lobbying from ourselves.
What actions are you as organisers taking so that the small medium size enterprises can be actively involved and the Festival not just being window dressing for the big corporates?
It is primarily a festival for the small medium size enterprises looking to develop their business and will include 1000 ‘Meet the Adviser’ sessions and 6000 ’Meet the Buyer’ sessions. It is important to remember that businesses from all over the UK will be present and there will be themed Conferences. In addition we are encouraging and supporting overseas delegations with our ‘Fly and Buy’ initiative. It will be a melting pot for business interaction globally.
Why would a central European country wish to invest in the northwest, look to it as an export market?
There are a number of facts I can list – a skilled workforce, a huge port facilitating transport of goods, a favourable and uncomplicated tax system. Take for example that corporation tax at 20% is the lowest in the G7 countries. There are also tax incentives for Research and Development. All in all it’s a region to consider seriously for partnerships and export of goods to in general. Another fascinating fact is that in the northwest there are 250,000 University students at any one time and many stay in the area to pursue careers after graduating. There are students graduating here from all the counties in the world so it is relatively easy to find personnel to assist in your operation here on the ground.
Do you yourself as Head of International or Liverpool Vision in general do anything to promote inter-regional relationships as opposed to country-to-country relationships?
We do indeed. Apart from the fact that Liverpool has traditionally had relationships with Shanghai and New Orleans – to name just two – we have linked in to a system of sister city partnerships to maximise the economic gain from traditional twinning arrangements.
And a personal question if I may. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about establishing international business relations?
It definitely has to be the ‘face to face’ nature of things which breeds success. In many parts of the world the trust in the personal relationship comes first and leads to the business scenario. I also add that the ongoing management of relationships is vital too – it cannot be neglected as you go off searching for new contacts when you have existing ones to take care of.
In Liverpool and northwest England generally is there an opportunity for Food & Drink companies? I mean is there a market ready to receive high quality niche products at a certain price?
Absolutely. In the UK there has been a food revolution and you only need to think that some of the most popular programmes on TV are food related ones and the point is proven. Concern over health, the fact that the UK is increasingly cosmopolitan, and the increase of middle class families with available income all add to the bright picture for overseas food producers.
And what about manufacturing? What added value or product gap can central Europeans fill?
Again, history shows that the northwest has a highly skilled workforce and the investment by large groups such as TATA in Automotive and BAE systems in aerospace has created the need for many light engineering companies. Innovation in materials and elements is high on the agenda and of course, there is no better place to experience best practice so as to get ideas for your own business development.
How important was the Capital of Culture 2008 to Liverpool’s re-emergence?
Fundamental. It was the start of an £8 billion investment programme and provided the catalyst for all that has developed since. Liverpool is no longer a drab industrial city but in many respects is showing the world ahead in terms of manufacturing, restauranteering, hotel development, and many of the financial and professional services industries
Are the Merseyside folk themselves reacting well to Liverpool’s new look and redefinition of its economic identity?
I would say that for the large part definitely yes. People are seeing the result of the economic re-emergence and the effect it is having on the city in terms of environment, infrastructure, and a genuine pride in belonging to the city. And of course when you give employment opportunities of a certain dimension the response is a positive one.
And here is the million dollar question: Why would a central European business person wish to live in Liverpool – what are the attractions? Music and football immediately come to mind when thinking about Liverpool. What are the other gems in the entertainment and cultural scene?
Too many to mention – a thriving tourism destination with the reintroduction of the cruise terminal, the events related to our heritage, the magnificence of our two cathedrals, an emphasis on the outdoor life and of course the humour and friendliness of the local folk – we were voted for as the second friendliest city in the UK. Glasgow was the winner, it also having been a Capital of Culture in 1991.
Any other points you would wish to mention in the context of IFB 2016?
Just to underline the fact that we are speaking of a truly international event and therefore the opportunity to establish business connections not only with Liverpool, the northwest, the UK, but with business visitors from China, the Middle East, the USA and the entire globe. Liverpool wants to bring the world to you.
Thanks for your time and the best of luck for Summer 16.
My pleasure and see you in Liverpool and we look forward to giving a very warm Liverpool welcome to our friends from all over the world.
The first International Festival for Business (IFB) in Liverpool took place in summer 2014, it was a five-week event. The second IFB in 2016 is being announced as “a global marketplace for creating connections and doing deals. It brings together thousands of businesses from around the world for three weeks of events, networking and deal-making.”
Among this year’s speakers: Frederik Willem de Klerk, Former President of South Africa, Carla Cico (The Italian-born, 44, is guiding Brasils Telecom into new markets) and Vaira Vike-Freiberga (was the first female President of Latvia).
For more information about what IFB is aout you may also have a look a video, you can find on the IFB homepage, the video contained at the bottom of the page on the following link: https://www.ifb2016.com/festival
Conurbation: Ballungsgebiet, -raum
inward investment: ausländische Direktinvestition, Investition aus dem Ausland
window dressing: Schönfärberei, Bilanzkosmetik, Schaufensterdekoration
twinning arrangement: Städtepartnerschaft
catalyst: Auslöser, Beschleuniger
drab: grau, trostlos, duster
Merseyside: ein Metropolitan County in England; es entstand durch die Kommunalreform 1974 und liegt im Norden Englands am River Mersey. Merseyside besteht aus den Metropolitan Boroughs Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens und Wirral. (Definition laut wikipedia.de)
gem: Edelstein, Glanzstück, Schmankerl