Over the past fifteen years, a defining feature of Liverpool’s economic growth has been its investment in its leisure and hospitality sector, which has been a driving force for the regeneration of the whole city, writes Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson.
Liverpool is world renowned for music, football and heritage, and boasts the largest collection of national museums and galleries of any UK city outside of London. Our impressive culture and tourism offering now sustains almost forty thousand jobs for local people.
Although many of these jobs are transient, Liverpool’s unemployment rate is now the same as the national average, and our leisure and tourism industry has played a key role in this. Being an exciting city to live, work and visit, is – and will continue to be – an integral part of Liverpool’s ambitions, as is evident in our winning bid to host Eurovision 2023.
” Eurovision certainly isn’t a cure to Liverpool’s problems, however the fact it’s happening here is testament to why people and businesses are attracted to our city. “
The potential reputational and economic dividends to come from putting Liverpool in a global shop window, and the critical boost it is providing to local businesses, should not be underestimated.
However, beyond filling hotel rooms and restaurant tables in the short term, our challenge is translating the impact of Eurovision to the benefit of our local people, businesses, and communities for the better. That is to say that any economic dividend that derives from culture and tourism needs to translate into better living standards.
For me, supporting economic growth is ultimately about improving the lives of Liverpool residents. Fundamentally, this is about creating decent jobs, breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing inequalities.
“As a city, we are evolving – and so must our economic ambitions. Liverpool had an unemployment problem. Now, the city has challenges around inclusion and productivity, and it must respond to the climate emergency.“
Of course, Liverpool’s economic performance is relative to regional and national contexts. Concerns around global growth, the cost-of-living crisis and tightening monetary policies means that the current economic environment is an uncertain one. Some businesses are simply in survival mode, instead of pursuing long term growth plans – but growth in Liverpool, and across the North West, is still happening.
The value of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the north of England has rocketed to 72% in the last five years, despite dropping across the rest of the UK, including London. The north has also increased its share of the UK’s FDI projects from 19% to 33%. This means that even against the national context, the north is currently considered the most desirable place for international investment in the UK.
This rise suggests that the north of England is drawing in more inward investment on a per capita basis, and, as a result, creating more employment opportunities from inward investment than anywhere else in the UK, signifying an even greater need to secure FDI.
Trends demonstrate that leading industrial sectors across the northern powerhouse are high-value sectors, including renewable energy, chemicals, electrical components, software and IT services and biotechnology.
All evidence suggests that cities with strong, high-value sectors can offer the best quality of life to their residents, creating good, stable and well-paid jobs. This is not trickledown economics; it’s a broad base of people being paid well to solve problems in sustainable jobs.
Liverpool has been gaining momentum in high-value sectors, such as life sciences, digital and gaming, renewable energy, manufacturing, and professional services. However, the future of these sectors undoubtedly lies within the knowledge base, skill set and commitment of people living and working across the region.
“We have world-class universities on our doorsteps and tens of thousands of students. Whilst generating well-rounded graduates is a success, the true benefit to the region’s economy comes when these graduates choose to stay in the region.”
I remember speaking to a woman in my own ward; she has three daughters that all went to Liverpool universities but had to move away from the city to find professional jobs. If we want to be a competitive region, the city must retain its talent.
But things are changing – and we are looking forward with positivity.
For example, the north west has a growing and diversifying life science hub, generating 38% of all UK pharmaceutical output. Home to companies delivering world-class solutions in life sciences from research and trials to medical manufacturing, Liverpool is playing a key role in this. Significant new investments in modern production facilities at these companies have created a vibrant, efficient and cost-competitive environment to produce new drugs and vaccines.
“In recognition of Liverpool’s excellence in this field, the UK Government has designated Liverpool City Region as a High Potential Opportunity for vaccine research, development and manufacture – the only location in the UK with this status for vaccines. In many ways, this is our life science equivalent to winning Eurovision.”
An example of FDI supporting the growth of our life sciences sector is Pierian Biosciences, a Tennessee-based life sciences company which has recently opened an office and laboratory in Liverpool Science Park, choosing the city as its transatlantic home. Likewise, Speke-based Pharmaron, a Chinese pharmaceutical company, is a premier R&D service provider for the life sciences industry. Headquartered in Beijing, Pharmaron employs 200 people in Liverpool and has recently had planning approved for a 400,000 square feet expansion in Speke.
More locally, we are also growing our own businesses. Indigenous business growth is the lifeblood of Liverpool’s economy.
Testament to that success is BioGrad; a Liverpool-based business and the UK’s leading laboratory-based learning provider for scientists who want professional scientist career development. With support from Liverpool City Council’s Business Growth Programme, BioGrad have grown from 20 to 150 staff, and have recently expanded their offices as they continue to grow.
In tech, Liverpool’s gaming industry is one of the biggest clusters of its kind in the UK, and this largely goes unnoticed. As one of the larger employers in the city centre and one of the largest gaming employers in the region, Liverpool is a key player in Sony’s European operations. Sony has recently renovated three floors of office space inside the former Echo building.
Furthermore, Liverpool-grown Firesprite, which was bought by Sony in 2021, recently secured the city’s largest letting in three years in the Duke Street area at 50,000 square feet.
Targeting high-value jobs is demonstrated in the council’s willingness to add more than three hundred thousand square feet of new office space, steering pockets of regeneration in active and emerging high growth areas.
For example, we have invested, via the combined authority, £2m into ‘The Depot’ and £8m to kickstart the iconic Littlewoods building in a prime location for big data businesses. After London, Liverpool is the most filmed city in the UK, therefore these investments look to nurture creative content production and drive the growth of a sustainable film and TV sector in Liverpool.
When faced with losing our UNESCO heritage status over the development of Everton’s Bramley Moore stadium, we backed vital city growth. This isn’t just a stadium – it’s a major regeneration project that is creating thousands of jobs and helping to breathe new life into one of our city’s most deprived areas.
In the heart of the innovation district, the Knowledge Quarter, Paddington Village continues to thrive and we are working to support Hemisphere, an eco-friendly workspace development of and for the twenty-first century. Furthermore, support for more Grade A office space at Pall Mall is currently under negotiation.
And these are just a few examples. Liverpool has succeeded with a number of high-value businesses which are expanding their presence across our city, including the Royal College of Physicians, Cashplus, Taylor Wessing, Avalanche Studios, MTC Liverpool, Tencent and Sedulo.
Investors need office space, but they crave talent, good transport, business networks, supply chains and a high quality of life for their workers. Liverpool can offer this in shed loads.
“However, all growth isn’t ‘good’ growth. Liverpool has been deeply bruised in the past, and we will not make the same mistakes again. As Mayor of Liverpool, I am proud to be doing things differently than in years gone by. It may not be business as usual for some in Liverpool, but it is business that is better.“
That’s why we, as a council, have a clear set of headline economic priorities. They are: knowledge intensity – more high-value jobs and businesses in the city, as well as more local people recruited into them; inclusion – fair employment and good work for all, and net-zero transition and low carbon economy – diversifying our energy sources, tackling energy poverty, cutting emissions and creating jobs.
Through this, we can close gaps and create a thriving, sustainable and fair city – for everyone.