Wales inward investment: Cardiff Business School report's concern over decline


Wales must be better marketed around the world to stop a big fall in inward investment, a report has warned.

The Cardiff Business School study says Wales is lagging behind almost every other part of the UK in terms of attracting foreign companies and jobs.

It urged that agencies should work together to improve Wales' image globally.

The Welsh government said it was working to "sell Wales to the world" in a bid to boost the economy.

The report said Wales had seen a "steep downturn" in inward investment over the past decade following a period of success in the 1990s.

It said that although a lot of investment had now gone to eastern Europe, China and India, other areas of the UK were still managing to improve their performances.

Wales, on the other hand, had fallen from being the second best performing UK area for inward investment in 2003 - excluding London - to second from bottom, ahead of just the south west of England.

The report for the Cardiff Business Partnership - which represents employers in the capital - said this was "disappointing" and should be of "concern".

Poor promotion

Cardiff Business School, which conducted the study, is part of Cardiff University.

Their research found that people who work for agencies involved in inward investment believed one of the reasons for the decline was that Wales had not been promoted well over the past few years.

It said that many believed marketing had become worse since the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) was taken over by the Welsh government in 2006 as part of the so-called "bonfire of the quangos".

The report also said that agencies did not work together enough to promote Wales and were often competing against each other.

It urged them to join together to launch a marketing campaign which shows the country as a "more attractive place".

The report, called Selling Wales, said: "A more proactive marketing campaign designed to let global firms know what Wales has to offer, both in terms of skills and in terms of location, is required.

"To date the brands of Wales and Cardiff have been communicated too weakly, with different agencies each trying to focus on separate components. This fragments the overall message."

Adrian Clark, chairman of Cardiff Business Partnership, said attracting investment into Wales continued to be essential and that selling Wales should be a team effort.

"Inward investment is even more competitive than it was in the 1990's," he added.

The Welsh government pointed out that the report relates to the former administration and said it had already recognised many of the points raised and moved on.

"Since her appointment last May the business minister [Edwina Hart] has been working with industry and commerce leaders to decide how to best to promote Wales and the Welsh brand across the world," a spokesman said.

"We need to showcase what we have to offer, the world certainly isn't going to come to us.

"That is why last year the first minister (Carwyn Jones) led trade missions to New Zealand and China and this year already has overseas visits planned to New York and India."

He added: "We are now looking to open a Welsh government office in central London and are preparing a detailed itinerary of Welsh trade missions and other opportunities to promote Wales overseas."

Report author Dr Andrew Crawley said there was "almost a competition" between different agencies involved, although they were working with the same aims.

"The problem we found is a lack of co-ordination between those agencies and a lack of communication and in some cases there is almost a competition between agencies to bring in firms and, if you put all that together, it gives us an uncompetitive approach to doing this compared to other regions," he said.

He said the remit of the report was to understand how things were done in Wales. It looked largely at the Cardiff city region last year before the new Welsh government took over.

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