Region leads UK-first trade and cultural mission to US business hub

Raleigh, North Carolina

A high profile leadership team from Greater Manchester headed to the USA  today (March 9) to promote trade, tourism and investment opportunities.

Mayor Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Economy Lead Cllr Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council, jetted to Raleigh, North Carolina, in partnership with the Government as part of a mission which is the first of its kind since the UK agreed a new economic pact with North Carolina.

The visit to the state, which has a GDP of $550bn – roughly the same as Sweden – is being coordinated by the UK Government Office in Raleigh, and supported by the two North Carolina chapters of the British-American Business Council, the largest transatlantic business network with more than 2,000 member companies based throughout North America and the UK, including many of the world’s largest multinationals.

The Mayor and Cllr Craig will meet Governor Roy Cooper and take part in trade and investment sessions with local business groups.

In Charlotte, the state’s largest city and the second most significant financial centre in the US after New York, the Mayor’s delegation will also meet with Mayor of Charlotte, Vi Lyles, and leading business executives at a Charlotte FC football match.

In July 2022 the UK Government signed a trade and economic MoU with North Carolina. Following a similar agreement with Indiana, the MoU aims to streamline trade and investment between UK and North Carolinian businesses, and lay a framework for increased cooperation in areas including clean tech and energy infrastructure.

UK and North Carolinian representatives met for the inaugural working group session under the MoU in January this year, ahead of the Greater Manchester trade mission.

Trade between the UK and North Carolina is worth around $2.5bn, which is roughly the same as the value of trade between Greater Manchester and the US as a whole.

US businesses have created thousands of jobs in Greater Manchester, among them North Carolina-based companies including digital studio Epic Games, manufacturer SPX Corporation, and life sciences firm d-Wise.

Last year, North Carolina was named ‘America’s top state for business’ in a study for CNBC.

Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester is proud to be leading the UK’s first city-region trade mission to North Carolina as part of the deal struck by government last year. Our city region has strong ties to the US that run through our shared histories and shape our ambitions for the future, and we want this to be the first step towards stronger cooperation that will unlock real benefits for people and businesses right here in our 10 boroughs.

“Greater Manchester has an important role to play on the world stage, not just for our city region but for the whole of UK plc. We are the fastest growing digital and tech hub in Europe. We’re the home of industrial innovation, and we’re energising a fair transition to carbon neutrality by 2038, boosting skills and creating good, green jobs. Our culture, our music, and our sporting heritage are second to none, and their reputation precedes us wherever we go.”

He added: “All of these things mean we are in an ideal position to lead the charge for greater collaboration with like-minded partners around the globe. Doing so has the potential to open up many more opportunities for trade, investment and tourism in our city region that will benefit both the North West and the country as well.”

Cllr Bev Craig said: “This mission is a fantastic opportunity to help Greater Manchester make the most of the UK’s new trading relationship with North Carolina. More trade and investment from places like the US helps grow the city region’s economy, in turn creating jobs and increasing prosperity and opportunity for our people.

“All around the world, Manchester is synonymous with great music and sport and vibrant culture. We also have a key role to play in sectors like digital and tech, and health innovation, where cooperation with global partners is key. Our economic and cultural ties are significant, and we hope to strengthen these while putting our city region on the global stage.”

Rachel Galloway, UK Consul General to the South Eastern US, said: “As a proud Mancunian and Consul General, I am very pleased this visit is taking place at a time when the UK and North Carolina are strengthening our long established relationship that dates back centuries.

“The Memorandum of Understanding we signed in 2022 commits to strengthening economic ties, and it’s fantastic that companies, cities and communities in both the UK and North Carolina are now starting to take advantage of these new economic opportunities. We look forward to supporting Greater Manchester and all parts of the UK in furthering their cooperation with North Carolina.”

His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America, Emma Wade-Smith, said: “With over half its export trade flowing to North America, the Greater Manchester region is strategically engaged in building business relationships across the Atlantic. We look forward to welcoming Mayor Burnham and Cllr Craig and to facilitating new trade relationships.”

Following their visit to North Carolina, the Mayor and Cllr Craig will travel with a Marketing Manchester delegation to international technologies, music and cultural conference South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas where Greater Manchester is set to take over the UK exhibition space.

SXSW is a world-leading event attended by 70,000 thought leaders and decision-makers, especially from the US. As a conference focused on emerging technologies, music and culture, it aligns perfectly with some of Greater Manchester’s sectoral strengths and ambitions – 2023 is another exciting year for music and culture in Manchester, with major venues such as Factory International and Co-op Live set to open, and the city region’s new Beyond The Music conference, which will have a presence at SXSW, scheduled to take place in Manchester later this year, adding to an already vibrant mix.

The Mayor and Cllr Craig will also join a delegation of Greater Manchester business leaders in New York City, led by inward investment agency MIDAS, where they will meet with New York City Mayor Adams, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America Emma Wade-Smith, and host a reception organised by the British Consulate General in New York, and sponsored by Manchester Airport Group, aimed at boosting the visitor economy.

In 2021 the US was Greater Manchester’s most valuable export destination, with firms in the city region exporting £794m-worth of goods across the Atlantic, accounting for about 12% of total goods exports that year and representing a 22% increase since 2017.

The US is also Greater Manchester’s largest services export partner, with the value of services exports topping £1.9bn – around 26% of the total.

And the US is the third biggest source of international visitors to Greater Manchester and the second most valuable, with US tourists spending around £73.2m in the city region’s economy in 2019.