Get Georgia on your mind, businesses told

Opportunies - Atlanta, Georgia

The West Midlands has long been an attractive destination for US investors with a keen eye for an opportunity, writes Penny Mordaunt.

In fact it may surprise you to learn that US-owned businesses in the West Midlands generated nearly GBP24 billion in 2019 - around 6.4 per cent of the region's total turnover.

As Minister for Trade Policy, I have just completed my US trade tour, going state to state to promote the fantastic local businesses in the West Midlands. I have also been explaining why the region - the beating heart of UK car manufacturing - is such a great place for American businesses to invest.

I've been travelling from California through the Southern states, including Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Oklahoma - like the West Midlands, famous names with proud heritage and much to offer. On my trip, I've met with hundreds of business leaders and UK companies such as Gleeds Global and Lloyds of London about the value of trade with the US.

I've also spoken to Mayor Andy Street to discuss levelling up strategies and am on the lookout for opportunities to connect individual states with the West Midlands.

I have started to build stronger state-level ties, kicking down barriers to trade with the US, and helping drive investment, jobs and growth into this vibrant region. My aim is to foster closer collaboration in areas such as digital trade, financial services and agriculture, whilst looking to make it easier for highly skilled British professionals, such as engineers and lawyers to come and work Stateside.

The US and the West Midlands already have a deep and long-running trade and investment relationship. In April, Goldman Sachs announced their largest UK investment outside London in Birmingham, with a plan to create several hundred high-value software engineering jobs.

Last year, OSI Group (Creative Foods) consolidated aged production sites and invested heavily in production and packaging equipment to provide scalability in the area and future-proof demand.

In the last few days, I've met even more business leaders driving investment and jobs into the West Midlands, including Asos and Coca-Cola - which is bringing its iconic Christmas truck to Birmingham this month.

What's more, the West Midlands is an export haven as the UK's epicentre for car manufacturing, accounting for almost a third of all road vehicle exports from the UK. Many of the UK's world-famous high-end marques, including Aston Martin, have their global headquarters here and road vehicles make up nearly 52 per cent of the region's exports to the US. In fact, the US is the West Midlands' largest export market outside the EU, with over a quarter of the region's goods exporters trading with North America.

Machinery and equipment are also key sectors.

Mechatherm International in Kingswinford, a leading provider of furnaces and casthouse equipment to the aluminium industry, has seen significant growth in demand from the US, which now makes up half its exports. The company has recently secured a contract worth approximately £15 million in US sales over the next two years and plans to open an office there in the near future.

Tamworth-based Warwick Music is also profiting from heightened American appetite for UK goods. Thanks to a partnership with Geneva Supply Inc, one of the largest third-party logistics providers in the Midwest of North America, the company has established its own US subsidiary and is selling direct to over 1,000 music stores across the States.

Sales of their instruments have increased by more than half in just 12 months, making the US their fastest-growing export market, and accounting for a third of sales.

But there's no doubt the region still has more to give. That's why the Department for International Trade recently unveiled its 'Made in the UK, Sold to the World' campaign, aiming to hit GBP1 trillion in exports by mid-2030s. Our 12-point strategy provides a framework to support regional businesses in selling their world-class products across the Atlantic.

It includes an export support service that offers a one-stop shop for exporting advice, and the launch of a new UK tradeshow programme better-tailored to help businesses from the West Midlands and beyond to attend and promote their products around the world.

Exporting and foreign investment is already helping regions across the UK bounce back from the economic shock of the pandemic.

There's still huge potential in the US market for businesses in the West Midlands to tap into. All of these services are accessible through your local trade support service at DIT West Midlands. In fact, ONS research shows businesses exporting goods were on average 21 per cent more productive.

With an ever-increasing American appetite for our goods and services and more American businesses choosing the region to build their future, I'm excited to see what lies ahead.