1. Economics
May 1, 2018updated 03 Aug 2021 10:56am

Liverpool shows how a city can stand out to investors

By Michael Parkinson

In an increasingly connected world, cities are in constant competition with each other to be noticed by investors. Quality, authenticity and diversity are the winning formula for creating a city that attracts attention, people and investment. But how can you make this happen?

In fact, the best piece of advice you can give to a city is the same you would give your children – just try to be your very best self.

Liverpool is a great example of a city that has heeded this advice. This city has a powerful brand that not only distinguishes it from other cities in the UK, but also from its global competitors. Liverpool balances historic assets and achievements with its current and future market opportunities.

The very DNA of Liverpool is global and diverse, from its 19th century port that transported people and ideas all over the world, to today’s bustling knowledge quarter welcoming thousands of foreign students to study every year. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the UK economy outside London and the South East, with a trading and exporting reputation that makes it even more attractive in a post Brexit economy.

This business heritage is matched in arts and culture: the music scene of the 1960s, the continuing power of football, and its cultural heritage of drama, language and the UNESCO status waterfront make it an attractive destination for visitors from around the world.

But the more a city develops its economic fundamentals, the more it will have to compete with other cities with equally powerful characteristics. This is when the personality of the city – its unique traits and qualities – becomes more important in separating it from those challengers.

When it comes to attracting investment, how can you understand the mind of your investor? Broadly speaking, there are two types of different but related types of analyses your investor will undertake: an economic and a mood analysis.

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Firstly, an investor will look at the city’s economic fundamentals. They will assess a city’s potential by looking at infrastructure and governance, as well as whether it has a highly skilled workforce and strong connectivity.

Secondly, place quality will be analysed. What is it like to live here? Does the city have a rich culture and history? Is the housing and environmental quality good? Are the schools performing well and innovative? Does it have a diverse population? Does the city feel creative, welcoming, innovative – open to new ideas and new blood? Striking this balance is not easy, but it is achievable for a city with the right approach.

People also play a key role in the development of cities. Smart decision-makers understand the significance of attracting and retaining skilled workers. People tend to move to cities for economic reasons like careers and job opportunities, but they will only stay if the city offers them a good quality of life. A solid environment, distinctive architecture, cultural facilities and quality housing are some of the elements that people consider when looking at a city to live, work or invest in. The quality of life for workers and their families is an increasingly important factor and this should be a critical part of the city’s branding.

In our globalised world, place quality becomes more important for a city trying to differentiate itself from the competition. It is not just the economic story of a city that counts, but also its unique qualities that distinguish it from other cities domestically and internationally.

 So for cities that want to stand out, make sure you shout just as loudly about your quirks and eccentricities as well as your economic fundamentals, to be truly successful.    

Professor Michael Parkinson CBE is associate pro vice chancellor for civic engagement at the University of Liverpool. He will be speaking at the 2018 International Business Festival, on Urbanisation & Cities day, 13 June 2018. To find out more and buy tickets, click here.

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