Manchester is continuing to flourish in face of challenging conditions
By Andrew Millar, partner at Shoosmiths Manchester
With a highly consequential general election facing the country, varying Brexit scenarios capable of unfolding and unpredictability in Washington, UK business is confronting challenging conditions for growth.
In light of these circumstances, there has never been greater pressure on our regional economies to be adaptable.
Despite such significant headwinds, Manchester is an example of a regional economy that is, so far, meeting this challenge. According to the 2019 annual State of the City Report, the city’s economy is continuing to grow at a faster rate than the rest of the UK.
The report offers in-depth analysis of how Manchester is performing in its goal to be in the top performing world class cities by 2025, confirming that its international reputation as a desirable destination to live, visit and carry out business is flourishing.
I was fortunate to be invited as a panel speaker on the TheBusinessDesk.com’s recent Manchester Economy Seminar. During the discussion, Manchester’s economic resurgence was placed under the microscope as we examined how the city’s economy has developed in the last two decades.
As the UK’s leading regional city for attracting foreign direct investment, and a champion of greater regional devolution of power, Manchester has built a strong business proposition on formal and informal partnerships between the public and private sectors. This is reflected in the major infrastructure developments that have created clusters of expertise throughout the city region.
Shoosmiths has been fortunate to witness this growth first hand, acting for tech companies at Media City, financial services companies in Spinningfields, life science businesses at Alderley Park, and now signing leases for companies in the creative industry sector moving into St John’s. These sector-based clusters highlight Manchester’s industry strengths in tech, high growth and disruptive sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, health innovation, fintech and cybersecurity.
One company at the vanguard of this ‘new economy’ is Altrincham cloud-based software developer, Matillion, a fast-growth company who we advised on a major Series C fundraise of $35 million, bringing the company’s total funding to-date to $60 million. Continued strong demand for Matillion’s data transformation software led the company to deliver triple-digit revenue growth in 2018 for the third consecutive year.
Alongside local success stories like Matillion and e-commerce firms like The Hut Group and Boohoo, the city has successfully attracted global giants such as GCHQ, Amazon, Siemens and Talk Talk to commit their future to Greater Manchester, bringing thousands of new jobs with them. They are drawn to Manchester’s dynamic talent pool, refreshed by the country’s second largest graduate population, as well as world leading research at our universities and a dynamic cultural heritage.
As the UK gears up for the start of a new decade, however, challenges remain. Climate change, and political and economic uncertainty will dominate the business agenda. At a more local level, issues with transport and regional connectivity persist, and major social challenges such as homelessness and social mobility remain to be tackled.
With continued collaboration between business and the public sector, a hoped for rebalancing of the UK’s economy and greater powers devolved to the regions, Manchester is well placed to meet these challenges and grow the local economy. In particular, I believe that Manchester’s ability to keep delivering exciting new infrastructure projects like those at Airport City, Mayfield and ID Manchester, which help to promote the city’s sector strengths, can continue to set the city apart and drive investment and corporate growth.
At Shoosmiths we have experienced a decade of tremendous growth in Manchester. I have every confidence that we can enjoy an equally successful second 10 years as Manchester continues to prosper as a place where business can adapt and thrive, and where people from all backgrounds can aspire to succeed and live well.