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City poised to take its place on global business stage
12:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013 in The York Report
York is developing old and new relationships around the world.
York has set out its ambition to become a top-five UK city, and top ten mid-sized European city.
To achieve this goal, the city is looking further afield to find new markets and opportunities.
Currently only about seven per cent of the city’s businesses export, and the figure is mirrored regionally with only eight per cent of companies in the Leeds City Region exporting.
The York Economic Strategy says it needs 15 per cent of its businesses to be exporting by November 2016.
As part of an internationalisation drive, city leaders are taking part in visits to emerging markets and cementing links with other cities around the world.
City of York Council has had a presence at exhibitions in Chicago, New York and Shanghai and intends to attend international property conference MIPIM for the first time this year.
It has also started to hold export forums to bring exporters together with non-exporters to provide business-to-business advice.
The city is hoping to improve its links with China through an existing relationship with the city of Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province in southern China.
The council is currently trying to agree a twinning arrangement with Nanjing, sparked by a relationship between the University of York and Nanjing’s university, which collaborate across a range of disciplines – science, social science and the humanities.
The relationship led to Prof Jun Chen, president of Nanjing University and world-renowned geologist, being awarded an honorary degree by the University of York last year.
City of York Council has since been in correspondence with the Nanjing local government over the possibilities of twinning the cities, as well as the possibility of holding a York Day in Nanjing and a Nanjing Day in York to raise awareness of the two cities with each others’ residents.
The twinning is expected to present opportunities to bring tourists and international students to York, along with opportunities for inward investment, and for Chinese companies to buy skills, services and products from York companies.
Like York, Nanjing has ancient and largely intact city walls. It was the capital of China through six dynasties and through the early years of the Republic of China. It is a national hub of education, research and tourism.
The University of York is also behind links with Sao Paulo, Brazil, which has similar strengths in medical technologies and bio-renewables, particularly in the role of electronics and digital technologies in developing new healthcare technology.
The city has also re-established links with the French city of Dijon following a celebration of York’s links with France.
In 2011, York recognised the contributions of the 3,500 Frenchmen who lived in York and fought alongside the RAF at Elvington during the Second World War with a memorial to the French airmen in York Minster.
The event attracted more than 2,000 guests from France, including diplomatic representatives, military detachments and French veterans and their families.
On a trip to Dijon last year representatives from York’s universities, council and York professionals, met Dijon’s Chamber of Commerce, the University of Burgundy, Dijon’s economic development office and the Dijon-York Society.
The cities, of similar size, history and ambition, both have research strengths in healthcare, food technology, bio-renewables and digital and creative technologies.
Historic links between York and New York are also on the table for resurrection. In 2011, the city saw an increase in American visitors from 19 per cent to 29 per cent of overseas visitors.
The separated wife of New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg is from York, and the mayor’s daughters still have connections to the city, which has helped the council to get into discussions with senior politicians in the Big Apple.
The Press Business Awards seeks to support this initiative through recognising the achievements of local businesses which do export.
Isotoma, the winner of The Press Business Awards’s Dare to Export category in 2012, trebled its turnover between 2008 and 2012, and now two-thirds of its turnover comes from overseas.
The business, based on Fishergate, York, creates web and mobile applications for businesses using open source software and has grown from 15 to 36 staff as a result of international growth.