A delegation of leading civic, business and education organisations from Birmingham will travel to sister city Chicago next week, where they will promote closer links and investment opportunities between the two cities.
Top of the agenda during the five-day trip (24-28 Oct) will be meetings between Council leader Mike Whitby and the senior management of new Cadbury’s owners Kraft Foods. Issues to be discussed at this meeting will include the company’s investment in Bournville, job creation and the potential for further growth at the site.
Alongside officials from Birmingham Airport, the delegation will also meet with one of the world’s largest airlines, Chicago-based UNITED Airlines, and the Chicago Aviation Commissioner, to highlight the need for direct flights between the two cities to be re-introduced. Additional meetings will be held with Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago.
Representatives from Business Birmingham, The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University, will also visit the US city to promote Birmingham as a centre of business, investment and educational opportunity.
Cllr Whitby, said: “Birmingham enjoys a special relationship with Chicago. We have been twinned since 1993 and particularly with the investment of Kraft Foods in Bournville, continue to develop and strengthen our links with the city. The US is a prime target for our investment drive and promoting the opportunities for US companies to build on the success of Kraft’s investment is key.” Kraft has made Bournville the heart of its global chocolate R&D, recently unveiling plans to create a worldwide ‘Centre of Excellence’ at the Birmingham factory to drive new product development, new technologies and best practices for brands such as Dairy Milk, Flake and Creme Egg.
The US is the largest inward investor to Birmingham and the West Midlands, investing £2bn since 2003. Over 350 North American companies, including Microsoft, Motorola and Kraft Foods – which is headquartered in Chicago – provide employment for 60,000 people in the area.
Wouter Schuitemaker, Investment Director at Business Birmingham, the city’s inward investment programme – who is leading discussions with potential investors in the US – said: “The ‘special’ trade relationship between the US and UK, and Birmingham more specifically, is very much alive and well. The US is an important market for the Birmingham area and, given our relationship with Kraft and our sister city status, Chicago is a strong gateway into this market. It is vital that we understand the city’s economy and that we have the relationships in place to access any opportunities and bring more investment and jobs to Birmingham.
“There are many US companies, particularly in R&D, financial and business services that are looking for European bases for their overseas operations. We will be meeting a number of these potential investors to show that Birmingham is the ideal location for these hubs – given our location, talent pool and sectoral strengths – and to showcase the opportunities for growth open to those who chose to invest in the area.”
The special US-UK trade relationship continues to grow. The US invested $9.37billion in the UK in 2010. This investment was made across 340 projects and created 32,450 jobs. Job creation by US companies in the UK is looking strong - results from the first two months of 2011 show a rise of 78% - almost doubling last year’s performance. On this basis the number of jobs created would hit 58,000 by the end of the year - compared with 32,450 last year.
The visit will also enable the University of Birmingham to further strengthen its well-established ties with universities and arts and cultural organisations in the Chicago area.
Professor Malcolm Press, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, commented: “The University of Birmingham has spent the last two years building relationships with the world-leading universities in the greater Chicago area, which have involved academic exchanges in both directions and sharing of intelligence on managing universities in a globally competitive market against a backdrop of change and uncertainty. Our engagement with academic partners in Chicago spans the breadth of our expertise, from research on heritage and culture; through resilience, cities and urban living; to psychology, health and exercise. “
Last week Birmingham ranked in the top 20 ‘best city to locate a business’ by Cushman & Wakefield’s European Cities Monitor 2011 (18th). Birmingham is one of only three UK cities to feature in the survey’s top 20. Birmingham was also 26th in terms of growth in investment among global cities - up by nearly 60% - the second highest growth rate of any UK city.