"Business doesn't come to you, you've got to go to it": Praise for Harrogate council's Cannes business trip

Harrogate Borough Council chief executive Wallace Sampson and cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Councillor Graham Swift at the MIPIM event.
Harrogate Borough Council chief executive Wallace Sampson and cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Councillor Graham Swift at the MIPIM event.

Harrogate Borough Council's first involvement in an international business conference in the south of France has been hailed as a success by the senior councillor who attended.

Cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Graham Swift earlier this month attended the Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier (MIPIM) in Cannes, with the council's chief executive Wallace Sampson and inward investment officer Sue Brandom.

Mr Sampson and Coun Swift presenting at the Leeds City Region booth.

Mr Sampson and Coun Swift presenting at the Leeds City Region booth.

Coun Swift said multiple meetings with large organisations have already been booked in as a result of their attendance of the conference.

"It was a terrific opportunity to meet a large group of people in a short period of time, who are interested in what projects we're undertaking," Coun Swift (Conservatives, Harrogate Duchy) said following the conference, which ran from March 12 to 15.

Coun Swift said that among the upcoming meetings Harrogate Borough Council representatives would now meet with a national firm that has built other convention centres around the country to talk about future plans for Harrogate's own centre.

He said other meetings would take place with investors and developers that were met at the event.

"I think it obviously wouldn't happen if we weren't there in Cannes," he said.

Harrogate council attended the event in conjunction with the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), who have attended the conference for several years.

Coun Swift said being part of the larger stable helped the local authority be noticed.

"My take is that it was a fabulous event for Harrogate Borough Council to be involved in and to be able to ride on the much bigger shoulders of Leeds City Region was a huge benefit," he said.

He said that while Harrogate had large-scale projects underway - such as the Station Parade Gateway redevelopment and future plans for the convention centre - he envisaged they would seek to return to the event.

Coun Swift said the move to look abroad for international investment was a necessary one because "business doesn't come to you", citing support from the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce.

"I think the chamber was very supportive of it because they know business doesn't come to you, you've got to go to it," he said.

The £5,320 price tag of the meeting was paid for from external funding the council received from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool.

The council secured £300,000 from the regional pool in 2017, on the premise that it was used to deliver investment activities in a two year period surrounding the UCI World Road Race Championships this year.

Coun Swift said ahead of the event that the move was a "long burn" - "I don't think we come back with a signed contract in our pocket" - but the exposure to international investors justified it.

A formal report on the matter will be prepared for council leader Richard Cooper to consider.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service