The CEO of Harrogate’s leading business group has defended a council work trip which will see three senior representatives attend an international conference in France.
Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandra Doherty praised council for thinking “outside of the box” in the search for investment opportunities, and said criticism on social media over their attendance of the Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (MIPIM) was unwarranted.
Cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Graham Swift, chief executive Wallace Sampson and inward investment officer Sue Brandom are set to attend the MIPIM conference in March, with council leader Richard Cooper to formally approve it on Wednesday, February 13.
Held in the city of Cannes in the French Riviera, the event bills itself as the “world’s leading property exhibition” – with thousands of investors and property firm representatives from across the world set to attend.
Ms Doherty said having representatives promoting the district on an international level was “really important”, and laughed off any suggestion the conference would be a “jolly holiday”.
“If you’ve ever been to any international conferences, they’re hard work – you’re on your feet all day, talking to people from 7am to 11pm,” Ms Doherty said. “It’s not the most jolly holiday.”
She said that businesses such as Harrogate Water and Bettys and Taylors showed the importance of exposure of local organisations to international markets.
“International inward investment is really important for Harrogate, we could do with some more…People have to think outside of the box,” she said.
“We don’t find that by sitting at home.”
Funding for the trip – which is expected to cost £5320 – will come from the £300,000 the council secured from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool in 2017.
That funding was secured 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.
The £5320 price tag includes the cost of flights for the trio (£1200), accommodation (£1520), travel expenses (£300), out-of-pocket expenses (£500) and two event passes (£1800), with the third pass to be covered by private sponsorship.
Coun Swift told the local democracy reporting service last week that the district’s “larger projects” such as the Harrogate Convention Centre, Ripon Barracks and the Station Parade Gateway would be presented to potential business partners at the event.
It’s the first time that Harrogate Borough Council has sent a delegation, although Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have sent representatives to the conference over the last several years.
“Leeds City Region have had material success in fishing for investment in the region and as a result of that HBC are well-placed to ride on their shoulders and start attracting serious investment into our district,” Coun Swift said last week.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service