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Future investment hopes for Glasgow

GLASGOW has been tipped to reap the benefits of significant ongoing investment in the next two to three years by one of the city's most senior business figures.

CROSSROADS: Stuart Patrick said in 2014 Glasgow could show the world its engineering prowess. Picture: Nick Ponty
CROSSROADS: Stuart Patrick said in 2014 Glasgow could show the world its engineering prowess. Picture: Nick Ponty

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick believes the city will have achieved "marginal" growth this year,but is confident major economic benefits could come from a revival of Glasgow's engineering sector in the near future.

He sees benefits flowing from engineering centres of excellence being developed through partnerships between industry and academia, as well as from investments by companies in the energy sector, notably in renewables technology.

He flagged significant investment by developers in building new grade-A office space, and the beneficial impact of the recently-opened Hydro arena on the city's economy.

Mr Patrick also highlighted the potential of the life sciences industry, citing the stratified medicine innovation centre at the new Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

And he noted the continued success of Scotch whisky, and this industry's significant bottling and marketing operations in and around Glasgow.

Mr Patrick is particularly enthusiastic about the potential for Glasgow, against this backdrop, to develop the international dimension to its economy in coming years.

He also emphasised the importance of Glasgow marketing its expertise in engineering to international visitors flocking to Scotland next year for the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup.

Mr Patrick said: "Above all else, we want to say, 'We are engineering'. As we go through (next) year, and we have all these folk coming into Glasgow and we have businesses coming here, I just want us to be saying that Glasgow's engineering capability is back, folks, and come and buy it."

And, while acknowledging that the 2014 Games would provide a boost to Glasgow's economy at just the right time, he is also enthusiastic about the medium-term picture.

Taking stock of the current state of the economy in and around Glasgow, Mr Patrick said: "(There are) lots of good signs but I guess we are saying the investment in the city's asset base is happening now. There may be a time lag between that investment and the results we are looking for in jobs growth and economic growth.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some of the time-lag stats showing we are bumping along, feeling edgy about the sustainability of the economic growth that is coming through in the last three or four months. But, on the face of it, a lot of the major investments are happening that should produce the benefits in two or three years' time."

He added: "I am optimistic about our ability, two or three years hence, to be building up our international capability. If we are investing in our skills base, if we are building our centres of excellence with industry, if we are making investments in our key infrastructure requirements, if we are bringing people here for all sorts of reasons, you have got to be optimistic about what is coming."

Mr Patrick said that, if Glasgow had not been doing these things, there would be no reason to believe that a rebalancing towards international trade was coming.

He added: "If it wasn't for the whisky and energy industry, it would feel a bit thin on the ground."

Mr Patrick cited Glasgow's developing expertise in the renewables sector. He noted an investment by SSE, which has set up a renewables operation in Glasgow.

He also highlighted the Engineering Academy launched last month at the University of Strathclyde, a collaboration between the university, partner colleges and industry. This aims to deliver a route to a range of engineering degrees in the university's faculty of engineering.

Mr Patrick stressed Glasgow Chamber's desire to maximise the number of people going into higher education, in terms of building the skills base and boosting pay rates.

He said: "We are not one of the ones to subscribe to (the view that there are) too many people going into higher education. That is our asset base. That is what we are selling to inward investors. We want to see more Glaswegians going into higher education because we believe that is where a lot of the higher-paid opportunities are going to come."

Mr Patrick also highlighted heavy investment in housing stock by Glasgow Housing Association and the development of the Buchanan Galleries retail complex.

Asked for his impression of the rate of growth of Glasgow's economy over the last year, Mr Patrick said: "I would imagine it is marginal."

However, citing signs of an improvement in recent months, he added: "I think the bit that is encouraging is the sense that something has happened since the beginning of the summer, and appears to be sticking."

And he emphasised: "Unemployment stats for Glasgow aren't as dismal as you might have feared they might be, when you compare large cities, one against the other."

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