Cashing in on record overseas investment

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EDINBURGH is set to buck the economic trend by attracting a record number of foreign investment deals, creating around 1700 jobs.

New figures show that 31 different deals or investments worth a total of £340 million from foreign companies have been concluded this year – compared with 18 last year and a record high of 25 in 2009.

Companies including global online retailer Amazon and US investment management firm BlackRock are among the firms so far this year to have agreed to set up business in the Capital.

The figures have been welcomed by city leaders at a time when many cities are finding it difficult to attract inward investment.

Industry experts say that the city’s image has been transformed in recent years and is now seen as much more business-friendly.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “We are greatly encouraged by this news that Edinburgh continues to be a destination that investors are interested in and a location they feel will bring a return for their investment.

“This news justifies the creation of four ‘zone managers’ and the creation of different areas of the city for different types of investment. The waterfront, Bioquarter, Princes Street and New Town, and west Edinburgh all have different things to offer to different types of investor.

“Edinburgh has always received a positive reaction from potential investors – they like the fact that the city is keen to be open for business and to give as much help as it can through the investor process. It is not just about getting them to come to Edinburgh, but also what Edinburgh has to offer in terms of quality of life.”

Many of the deals have involved firms setting up smaller satellite operations as they pounce on cut-price deals that allow them to expand.

One deal that is not included in the figures – as full details have not been finalised – is the arrival of Swiss banking software specialist Avaloq, which intends to create up to 500 jobs in the next five years; a similar number that Amazon intends to create at its new Waverley Gate office.

Stewart Taylor, a director of property firm CB Richard Ellis, said: “Amazon and Avaloq were the largest deals that have happened and in both cases they cited the availability of graduates as being key to them setting up here.

“The plus side of what Edinburgh has been through in the last few years, such as the cuts at organisations like RBS, is there is also more availability of staff at a trained level. There is no question that any investor that goes to economic development [department of the council] gets a very positive reaction and you can’t quantify the value of that. I definitely think the city is seen as more accessible than it was four or five years ago.” Many of the frontline functions of the council’s city development department, headed by Dave Anderson, are now being moved to the services for communities department in order to allow Mr Anderson to focus on working with developers and investors.

Mr Anderson will no longer have responsibility for planning, transport, building standards and public safety in order to free him up to become a higher-profile investment “champion”.

Chief executive Sue Bruce, who has overseen the changes, said: “I have asked city development to focus big time on the external environment, business support, business development, inward investment, creating jobs and sustaining jobs.

“Edinburgh has done relatively well in these economic times but if we became complacent on that we would be in a dangerous place.”