Next summer an expected 250,000 international business people will converge on Liverpool for the International Festival for Business, a two-month showcase for UK plc.

As part of the Festival, Mersey Maritime is holding a Maritime, Logistics & Energy Week, which will highlight the growing importance of Liverpool as a northern logistics hub and gateway to the UK and Europe for north Atlantic trade.

“The Festival will showcase Britain and help rebalance our balance of trade,” said Chris Shirling-Rooke,” commercial director of Mersey Maritime. “We are also aiming to reinforce the idea of Liverpool as a logistics hub.”

2014 will be an auspicious time for the world to descend on Merseyside, which is undergoing a £10 billion transformation led by Peel Group that will see the construction of a new deepsea container port (Liverpool2), an enlarged cruiseship terminal and improved road and rail links.

Liverpool2 will be able to handle some of the world’s largest container ships and will double the annual container handling capacity at the Port of Liverpool from 750,000 teu to 1.5 teu, while the whole SuperPort development will create around 20,000 new jobs, many in warehousing and road transport.

Since being chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2008, Liverpool has cemented its place as an iconic tourist destination, and is now the UK’s third most visited city after London and Edinburgh. It is now looking to build on its reputation as a great place to visit and live by re-establishing its position as a great place to do business too, reminiscent of its 19th century roots as a thriving industrial and commercial centre.

The wider Merseyside region will also benefit from the construction of a second road bridge over the river at Runcorn, a £600m six lane tolled crossing that is part of the Mersey Gateway Project. The scheme, due to open in 2017, will be privately funded but up to half the debt will be underwritten by the government’s UK Guarantee Scheme.

The Festival is the brainchild of Max Steinberg OBE, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, a public-private partnership dedicated to “creating a world class city for business”. With representatives from all the world’s fastest growing economies including India, Russia and China expected to attend, he believes it could generate as much as £100m of new business for the UK.

Steinberg said: “Liverpool is fundamentally different from what it was 10 years ago. We recognised that the city was far too reliant on public sector jobs and we want to get across the message that Liverpool is open for business. The 2014 Festival will be the biggest in the UK since 1951.”

Together with Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, Steinberg organised a Liverpool pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai – it was the only UK city to be represented – and since then the two cities have forged a strong bond. In fact, said Steinberg, Liverpool is better recognised abroad as a city of commerce than it is within the UK.

“Our inward investment order book is the strongest ever,” he said. “The SuperPort development gives Liverpool the chance to be a major distribution centre for the UK once again.”


Liverpool from the air

Steinberg believes that Liverpool is – wrongly – still seen as a hotbed of union militancy and labour unrest and is keen to change such perceptions.

“Merseyside is the most productive economy in the UK,” he asserted. “We welcome the private sector and are very competitive on cost, especially compared with London. Liverpool has a very flexible workforce and we have many success stories here including Jaguar Land Rover and our supply chain has grown as a result.”

Steinberg believes that being the only city other than London to have an elected mayor also helps when companies are looking to relocate to Liverpool. “We have a mayor who is very open about talking to business,” he said. “We are a friendly city and now we are creating the right conditions for business to relocate here.”

Ian Pollitt, development/investment surveyor at Peel Holdings, agrees. “Our chairman John Whittaker believes in the Merseyside projects,” Pollitt said. “He is comfortable with the city leader and the direction he is going in.”

Part of Peel’s plans for the 700 acre redevelopment on both sides of the Mersey is a new International Trade Centre on the Wirral that will host companies from China, Korea and India initially looking to trade with the UK.

Even before the news that the 2014 International Festival of Business was coming to town, Liverpool was already on course to revive its position as the North West’s prime logistics hub.

But for 61 days in June and July next year, the Festival will make the city a centre of international trade, and an unmissable opportunity for the logistics industry.