Trading Places

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This week I led a delegation to Boston and Chicago in the USA.

The trip was focussed on growing trade and investment in Bristol and we took with us several businesses from Bristol and the wider region.    The visit was fully supported by the government, we were accompanied by the government’s Department for International trade (DIT), and my travel was fully funded by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs.

The businesses who came with us included:

  • Rixxo, which is a digital campaign agency, working with businesses in Bristol and around the world to engage wider audiences.
  • Sparkol, software company which produces videos and animation for other companies.
  • YellowDog, the most interestingly named company, which expands capacity for companies and simplifies complexity in digital processes.

The West of England Mayor and some businesses from the wider region also came.

As you can tell from the list above, this was a high tech-focussed visit  and we chose Boston and Chicago as cities who could be successfully targeted to grow contacts and inward business for Bristol’s tech economy. This is great for Bristol, as successful companies will grow and create more jobs for people. I have invited them to share their success in my blog next week – watch this space.

IMG-20190607-WA0002While in Boston, I also took the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Boston, and several of his department commissioners, looking at issues common to our two cities.   Boston and Bristol have a lot in common and I’m not just referring to history.  Both cities have growing young populations and a strong migrant population.  Both cities have a high proportion of citizens with higher level qualifications and both of us have seen the widening of the inequality gap. We also both have housing need as our number one priority and both have to deal with a huge daytime growth of people in the city, from commuters coming into the city to work and visit.

We were able to share and learn with Boston and we discussed the challenges of physical participation in sport and mental health challenges. I was delighted to be able to introduce the work of Empire Fighting Chance and the work they are doing with mental health intervention for disadvantaged communities.

We also looked at the innovative transport infrastructure system, The Greenway, with tunnel systems which takes traffic out of the built up areas and instead provides pleasant green pedestrianised space.

We were able to look at the growing challenges of adult and children’s social care.  Major cities in America are facing even bigger challenges than we are so it was good to hear their experiences and solutions.

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In Chicago, I was honoured to meet Chicago’s newly elected first female black mayor,

Lori Lightfoot. I then joined the Global Cities Forum where I spoke with other mayors on the growing understanding of the leading role cities play in tackling the 21st century challenges, including migration and population growth.

Cities continue to grow and within 10 years, 60% of people across the world will live in cities.

The role of internationalism is important to Bristol as a major city and we must embrace the opportunity to make connections with cities and global agencies and crucially bring new trade and investment to our city. Investment in infrastructure is essential to a city with a rapidly growing population like ours and to hide away from that fact and the urgent need for modern infrastructure and inclusive growth would be an abrogation of responsibility of city leadership.

Look out for next week’s blog, including stories from the businesses who came with us.

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