THE Leeds City Region has dramatically reduced the rate of taxpayer’s money it uses to fund its presence at the world’s largest property event.
In five years, the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has shrunk the percentage of public funding for its trip to MIPIM in France from 80 per cent to 20 per cent, with the private sector now funding four fifths of the cost of the annual event.
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In a robust defence of its presence at MIPIM, LEP chairman Roger Marsh told The Yorkshire Post that if Leeds wanted to be a globally recognised economic entity and attract foreign investment then it needed to be present on the international stage.
Recent EY research showed that the Leeds City Region had moved from being the 13th most attractive city for Direct Foreign Investment (FDI) to the top three, with the area attracting 29 FDI projects last year.
And Mr Marsh said that as a region comprising a fifth of the Northern Powerhouse geographic area, that it had to stand alongside these areas in order to market itself within the wider international economy.
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He said: “If you want to be globally recognised as a place for people to invest in then you have to sell yourself on a global stage. However loud my voice might be I cannot stand on the steps of the Town Hall and reach the city’s station, let alone Shanghai.”
MIPIM takes place in Cannes each year and the high cost of the event is often the target for criticism, particularly when taxpayer money is involved.
However Mr Marsh said that the annual delegation to MIPIM was now funded by a far greater degree from private sources who saw the benefit of marketing the region internationally.
“We have moved the dial from something that was largely funded by the public purse,” he said.
“We now have a bigger delegation, a bigger stand and bigger promotion than we have ever had and for which the private sector pays four fifths of the cost.
“They don’t do this to be philanthropic, they do that because it is in their interest to promote the region.
“As a city region of this economic size and of significant importance to the north and the whole nation, we either go big or we should stay at home.”
MIPIM, which takes place every March in Cannes, is attended by more than 26,000 property professionals from approximately 40 countries.
Mr Marsh said that, as the UK enters a post-Brexit world, that having as big an international presence as possible was essential.
“As a city region of this economic size and of significant importance to the north and the whole nation, we either go big or we should stay at home.
“We have done more events and spoken on more platforms this year than ever before.
“Not attended would mean a loss of identity.
“In terms of our international resonance, particularly as we enter a post-Brexit world, it would be a retrograde step and negate all the things we have achieved over the last five years. The dividends of which have now begun to materialise.
“For me it would be really lost opportunity to widen out the benefits of some of those places that perhaps haven’t enjoyed the opportunities as much as Leeds has."