Leeds to fly the flag on French Riviera

PUBLIC and private sector representatives are heading to the French Riviera for an annual property convention in defiance of the credit crunch.

Location Leeds will be flying the flag for the city at MIPIM 2009, the international property and investment trade show at Cannes this March.

Members of Location Leeds said they would use the four-day event in France to showcase plans for the 80m Leeds Arena to an audience of property professionals from around the world.

A spokeswoman for Location Leeds said: "Plans for the next stage in the development process will be announced at a keynote event during the week."

She said she expects "a significant reduction" in the number of people attending locally and nationally and indicated less money would be spent on the trip.

Last year's MIPIM attracted nearly 30,000 people from 89 different countries.

The spokeswoman added: "There will still be the type of international investor that we are looking to attract, which is why it is still important to attend – but obviously this factor has affected our decisions and subsequent activity levels."

Richard Lewis, group property director at Town Centre Securities and a sponsor of Location Leeds, added: "The Location Leeds partnership has established a reputation for its networking and business development events, which in previous years have led to major new contracts for Leeds-based firms including some multi-million pound international instructions.

"However, the partnership felt that in the current economic climate, a more streamlined approach was necessary and that the best impact in 2009 would be achieved through the Location Leeds exhibition stand.

"It is vital that the city continues to fly the flag at MIPIM and maintain its profile in a fiercely competitive international investment market."

Jean Dent, Leeds City Council's director of city development, said the Leeds Arena would act as an economic driver for the city and was important to the status of Leeds as an internationally competitive European city.

She added: "We welcome expressions of interest from construction companies that would like to work with us on this and other projects."

The partnership will launch the book Leeds: Shaping the City, published by RIBA and sponsored by partners including MEPC, Carey Jones, Evans Property Group and Hammerson, at the event.

It will also showcase regeneration programmes such as Holbeck Urban Village and Aire Valley.

Location Leeds is funded by both the private sector and the taxpayer, through the city council and Marketing Leeds.

Asked about the decision to send people this year, Deborah Green, the chief executive of Marketing Leeds, said: "This is what the public sector should be doing in times of crisis – supporting the city."

She said the event was "misunderstood". Property Week magazine has described MIPIM as "basically a four-day party with loads of lobster and Champagne on yachts".

Ms Green added: "We have to be there as a city."

The city council is sending four members of staff; Marketing Leeds is sending two. Bradford Council said it was considering sending a small delegation to MIPIM "but even this is under review at this time".

Back in Yorkshire, plans were being finalised yesterday for the third "alternative MIPIM", a networking event to be held in Leeds, which organisers expect to be the busiest ever due to the economic downturn.

King Sturge, Grant Thornton and Yorkshire Bank are supporting the March 12 event at La Grillade, the French-owned restaurant in Wellington Street.

Colin Fell, a partner at King Sturge who founded the event, said it would be about "Yorkshire people eating French food and drinking French wine, doing business in Yorkshire rather than going to the South of France".

He said the firm no longer wanted to spend around 3,000 per person attending the event, which he described as a "bunfight".

Jonathan Riley, the managing partner of Grant Thornton in Leeds, said: "Attendance on swanky boats and at posh hotels when there is little to differentiate between the attendees and exhibitors won't persuade developers and funders to come to Yorkshire.

"Good business propositions, calmly presented with achievable investment return, will. And that can be done from Yorkshire far better and much more cost effectively than in the South of France." King Sturge said it is expecting 200 people to the ticket-only event.

Source of business generation

Cheerleaders for MIPIM say the annual event has been "a fantastic source of new business generation" for Leeds-based companies over the years, citing many contract wins for local firms.

Location Leeds said the cost of this year's exhibition stand would be split evenly between the public and private sectors. It said more than 90 per cent of the apartment funding would be met by the private sector.

Last year, the city council spent 40,000 of public money attending MIPIM.