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Cardiff’s Resilience, Renewal and Reach

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Written by

Mark O’Connell,

CEO of International Trade Consultants

OCO Global


In Post Covid Britain there is a risk that we are focused on the negatives. The harbingers of doom speak about the death of our cities, the end of UK manufacturing, the Big State control of our lives, and a never-ending cycle of lockdowns.

March kicked with off with St David’s Day and brought the daffodils which are brightening every hedgerow, the winter skies are in retreat, the days are getting longer, and I am feeling optimistic.  Here is why:

Foreign investment in the UK in 2020 fared better than most people predicted, and although the records are still being verified, volume was indeed down around 38% relative to 2019, but there was also evidence of excellent quality of projects, strong levels of job creation, and they were more evenly distributed across the country. The pandemic has shown that firms and their staff can operate and thrive outside the main predictable hubs which might just expedite a market driven levelling up, and indeed our Devolved Administrations like Wales have demonstrated they are nimble in both the heath and economic response to the pandemic because they are closer to their constituents and investors.

Moreover, the Welsh Government economic strategy and focus on resilient sectors such as finance and professional services, life sciences, creative industries and advanced manufacturing have all weathered the pandemic effectively.

Pre-pandemic, regional capitals like Cardiff have been ahead of the curve and thanks to the City deal were already thinking about addressing major issues. Issues such as environmental sustainability, cycle routes and pedestrianisation to enhance liveability, diversity of retail and balancing the economy, how to leverage the visit and study flow from an economic development perspective, and most significantly how to position the Cardiff Capital Region in the minds of investors as futureproof and responsive to their needs around skills, affordability and infrastructure.

Cardiff scores well across the inter-related pillars of liveability, investment attractiveness, visit and study, according to independent benchmark Vista which compares it with more than 100 cities across the country. Ranked as the 9th most attractive place to live in the UK means that it will continue to attract more experienced talent and skills in addition to the steady supply it has from its strong university base.

Of course, the region is also alive to the challenges of over-capacity in some mature manufacturing sectors, the opportunities that Net Zero, the UK’s wider industrial strategy and Global Britain will open. This week, we are hosting a webinar on Cardiff’s Resilience, Renewal and Reach approach, which will share insights from Germany where major OEMs have rationalised manufacturing sites while mitigating the economic damage and impact on the local workforce and supply chains. There are parallels for the Cardiff City Region which is looking at innovative solutions to mitigate the loss of the Ford plant in Bridgend. As the pandemic has taught us, it is not the problem we face but how it is managed that turns out to be the most critical factor.