This week I joined colleagues from Scotland’s cities and thousands of investors and developers who are creating a buzz at London’s Kensington Olympia for Mipim UK, the country’s biggest property marketplace.
I am here to fly the flag for Inverness and Highland, setting out our stall for an investment community which this year includes a large delegation from China. Rio Ferdinand has also been spotted in the crowd.
We wouldn’t be here at all if weren’t for Scottish Cities Alliance. By working together with Scotland’s bigger cities, combining resources and learning from the experience of others, we are making quite an impression on the exhibition floor. The Scottish Cities Alliance stand is prominent amongst stiff competition from the likes of London, Liverpool and Manchester. There is a lively and positive atmosphere, and we are part of it.
Scottish Cities Alliance is a collaboration between Scotland’s seven cities and the Scottish Government that enables us to showcase investment opportunities at events such as Mipim UK. In collaborating, Inverness and Highland has a national and global platform to put forward our investment-ready projects such as Inverness Campus, which is at the heart of a growing life sciences cluster, and the Inverness Airport Business Park.
We don’t expect to sign deals here and now, but there is no doubt that awareness raised by our presence at Mipim last year contributed towards the recent £44 million investment in student accommodation in the region.
We have a lot to talk about. Inverness is one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities and an important centre for commerce. The population increased by 17 per cent between 2001 and 2011, with a higher proportion of people educated to degree level than the Scottish average, and it is a gateway to some of Scotland’s major tourism destinations.
Interestingly, the Chinese visitors were familiar with Loch Ness and were also very keen to learn more about golfing opportunities in Scotland. Infrastructure improvements, including £146m investment in next-generation broadband, planned improvements to the rail network and upgrading of major roads such as the A9 and A96 combine to create an attractive picture for financial investment that will in turn create jobs and economic growth for Inverness and Highland.
Days like these secure the future path of a city, and will plant the seeds of investment into projects that we will announce in the years to come – so watch this space!
Stuart Black is director of development and infrastructure at Highland Council