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City is set challenge to lead on funding

THE body set up to drive inward investment in Glasgow has signalled its determination to ensure the city is the first stop for investors looking to do business in Scotland.

While Glasgow is building its reputation as a place to invest internationally, Bailie Liz Cameron, the council's executive member for jobs and the economy, said there remains a tendency for people in London to "confuse Scotland with Edinburgh".

This, she noted, is in spite of its burgeoning International Financial Services District (IFSD) and the strength and size of Glasgow's biocorridor - a cornerstone of its inward investment strategy.

Glasgow picked up a prestigious award from FDI magazine last week for having the best inward investment strategy in Europe.

It marked the fruition of an economic development strategy introduced by the city in 2011, which has seen industry, academia and the council work together to drive growth in areas such as life sciences, low carbon industries, design, manufacturing, tourism and events.

Invest Glasgow, created in June 2012, has played a key role in implementing the strategy, having helped KMPG set up a tax centre and Ashurst a legal analysis in the city over the past year. Those commitments, which have boosted the jobs total in the International Financial Services District, have contributed to the £6 billion which has been invested in public and private sector projects across the city since 2011.

In spite of the progress, Invest Glasgow's main spokeswoman insists there is still work to be done to ensure Glasgow is front of mind among inward investors.

Declaring that it was Glasgow's mission to change the view in London that "Edinburgh is the only place to be", Bailie Cameron said: "We make no bones about it. We are good loyal Scots, but Glasgow comes first. And we need to be out there pitching Glasgow. SE (Scottish Enterprise), SDI (Scottish Development International), SCDI (Scottish Council for Development and Industry), the Government will be there, but we're there for our city.

"And actually that's very sensible for the country as well, because if the biggest city with the metropolitan region around it is not the powerhouse, then it doesn't do the country any good. If you've got a really big player here working with our partners in Edinburgh and the other cities then it can only enhance and make our country thrive."

Invest Glasgow's six-strong team is based in the council's development and regeneration services (DRS) department. It sits alongside and works closely with bodies such as Jobs & Business Glasgow, City Property Glasgow and the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. Bailie Cameron notes its role is to provide the "first point of contact" for inward investment enquiries, whether it is new or existing investors, or property agents looking to assist investors.

She praised the impact the team, led by economic development specialist Anne Murray, had made in its short existence, noting that Invest Glasgow has helped bring 3500 jobs to the city, in addition to safeguarding nearly 1000.

Major projects currently underway in Glasgow include the £1 billion New South Glasgow Hospital, which Bailie Cameron claims could have a "transformative" effect on the city.

She said the council had recognised the importance of the centre for stratified medicine being developed at the hospital by backing it to the tune of £1.5m, and encouraging Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government to support it.

In addition to the clinical benefits the centre is hoped to bring, there are hopes it could be business opportunities for life sciences companies around the hospital.

Beyond that, Invest Glasgow notes there are three speculative office developments currently under construction in the city, which when complete will bring 450,000 square feet of Grade A office space to Glasgow.

It said investments of this magnitude put Glasgow on the map for potential investors.

Speaking shortly before Glasgow collected its FDI award, Bailie Cameron said the accolade tells "would-be investors that they have a port of call here, a one-stop shop where we are absolutely avid for investment, and where we will work with them from the moment they show an interest in the city."

Invest Glasgow is looking to build on that award success by hosting events on topics ranging from low carbon to property and life sciences. Last week it attended MIPIM, an international real estate conference in France, for the second time, where the aim was to promote Glasgow as a location for property investment.

To help advance its case to investors, Invest Glasgow has created a new website, which outlines the investment proposal for potential investors, a hotel prospectus and what Bailie Cameron notes is "the best bragging book I've ever seen."

But the biggest opportunity this year will come in the shape of the Commonwealth Games, which Invest Glasgow views as an opportunity to win business from both emerging and established markets.

Bailie Cameron said: "But we can't forget that Europe sits on our doorstop. Our place in Europe is becoming a hot topic because of the two referenda, but as far as business is concerned it is really important we have more than a foothold on the European market."

During the Games the Invest Glasgow team will be present every day from 7am to 10pm at a dedicated business embassy at Scotland House.

Based at the Old Fruitmarket in Candleriggs, it will see the team sell the Glasgow investment offer and showcase some of the companies based here.

Bailie Cameron said: "We will be selling Glasgow like mad for the whole 11 days. We intend to be there, every day all day.

"We will be working, we will be talking up the city, and we also hope to have some keynote addresses each day [from academia, business and the public speaker. We want to get some really top speakers for the city, selling the city and offering investment opportunities."

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