From Shanghai to Bristol, we look at six cities that have taken aim at international businesses, offering scores of benefits for companies seeking to expand overseas
A city really blazing a trail on the world’s start-up scene is Bristol. So much so that research recently published by marketing agency Yours Sincerely found it to be the best place to start a business in the UK.
Nestled in the South West of England, its transport links provide it with easy access to Wales as well as London and the South East.
With desk space ranking 56% cheaper than London on average, the report also cited internet connection speeds, commuting times and the number of start-ups already flourishing there as reasons for its top billing. Regus currently has five centres in the city, with three more in neighbouring areas.
In January last year, O’Neill & Brennan decided to relocate its Cheltenham office to set up a new facility with Regus in Bristol. Will Keenan from O’Neill & Brennan, hailed Bristol as a “vibrant city”.
“The flexibility that comes with working with Regus has been instrumental to our growth,” he added. “So much so that we have opened an additional office in Regus Cardiff and are in the process of opening a new office in one of its Exeter locations.”
“Since relocating to Bristol, we have seen year-on-year growth with a turnover of £2m in year one, and with our new locations primed for new business opportunities this is predicted to double to £4m this year.”
China’s economic boom in recent decades has been no secret, with Shanghai perfectly placed for any company looking to get involved in the Chinese success story.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest attractions for businesses to move to Shanghai is its Free Trade Zone. Launched in 2013, the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) is essentially a pocket of liberal economic policies similar to those of Hong Kong, but nestled on the mainland.
Designed in part to entice and welcome foreign business, it means foreign investors are no longer required to invest 15% within three months and 100% within two years.
Last year, mining company Anglo American moved its Chinese operation from Beijing to Shanghai. “With the growing importance of close local customer relationships and the importance of the region, last year we established a local business entity in China and opened our new office in Shanghai, moving from Beijing,” explains Heike Truöl, head of commercial services at Anglo American.
“This move allows us to be closer in proximity to many of our customers, suppliers/service providers and important industry stakeholders.”
As one of the richest cities in the world, São Paulo ranks as the leading commercial and industrial centre of South America. It’s therefore no surprise that many of the world’s banks have their Latin American headquarters there, as have major companies such as Netflix. There is also a thriving startup scene, and it plays host to a Google campus.
Brazil recently relaxed its labour laws around hiring people on a part-time basis, which presented Odgers Interim, a firm that provides interim managers, with the perfect opportunity to launch in the city.
Luiz Wever, managing partner and CEO, Odgers Interim and Odgers Berndtson, Brazil, says digitisation of many of the city’s biggest businesses, which have traditionally been family-run, has resulted in the creation of a thriving professional ‘gig economy’, which has provided the perfect conditions for expansion.
“Digital transformation, in particular, has become the watchword for the city’s business environment, whether it’s in consumer goods or industrial manufacturing,” he says.
“A rapidly increasing number of large, family-owned businesses are looking for highly experienced professionals to develop and implement digital change strategies, but don’t necessarily need these individuals to stay on after the projects have been completed.”
Traditionally associated with the oil industry, Dallas is fast forging a reputation as the Silicon Valley of the South and has been dubbed ‘Silicon Prairie’, with the state having the highest number of tech workers in the southern United States, coming sixth in the list of top 20 ‘tech towns’. Benefits such as an absence of state income tax, international airports, and a diverse workforce are also an attractive proposition, and the city has a low median real estate purchase price.
“Given that Dallas has one of the country’s highest job growth rates, at 4.1%, it’s attracting some fantastic talent,” says Zoe Morris, chief operations officer at Frank Recruitment Group, a global technology recruiter that opened its Dallas office in 2017.
“We’re seeing a lot of people – graduates and Millennials in particular – flocking to the area to further their careers, and that’s great news for businesses looking for the skills they need to compete in the modern business space.”
Forbes has ranked the Netherlands at third place in its top ten list of countries for global business in 2018, citing economic openness, English proficiency and a strategic hub for accessing European markets among the reasons for this.
Its capital, Amsterdam, is a truly global city, with the majority of residents speaking English, while its location in Europe makes it well placed as a continental business hub.
Frank Recruitment also opened a hub in Amsterdam last year. “Amsterdam is a world away from Dallas, but many of the things that make operating in Dallas such a positive experience can be found in Amsterdam, too – great support for businesses, for example, and a really robust tech scene,” explains Zoe Morris.
“When we look for places to set down roots, we always look for places that are going to offer an exceptional standard of living for our staff, and Amsterdam lives up to that. People work hard, but there’s a really good work-life balance.”
With Africa seeing a boom in trade and development in recent years, South Africa’s relatively stable government and economy have helped it emerge as the gateway for business in the continent.
Johannesburg has been the region’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment. One of its major unique selling points is its strong transport links. Oliver Tambo International Airport – the continent’s largest and busiest airport – is only 20 minutes away by train from the centre.
US tech giants Facebook, Google and Microsoft have also established bases in Johannesburg while the suburb of Braamfontein has emerged as a digital hub.
“There is a huge amount of office space and talent in Johannesburg,” says Colin Farquhar, CEO of Exterity, a Scottish video technology company with a local office in Johannesburg. “However, it may be advisable to initially partner with local businesses to help gain an understanding of South Africa’s investment and trading conditions before opening a local office.”
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