An economic powerhouse with a truly global vision

City and University
Underpinning the city and city region economy are three world-class universities, with the University of Glasgow (center) the UK’s fourth oldest

Glasgow is home to a burgeoning list of American companies, drawn to a vibrant and exciting city that is firmly focused on further success

by Graham Lironi

Click to access article as a .pdf

On his visit to Glasgow last year, US Ambassador Johnson noted that Scotland’s economic importance to the United States cannot be underestimated. For more than a decade now, the US has been Scotland’s best customer – buying more than $6.1bn of Scottish products and services each year – and its largest investor.

In 2016, more than a third of all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Scotland came from the US, with some 600 American companies in Scotland employing around 90,000 people.

Last year Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city with a population of over 620,000, was the top performing Scottish city for FDI and fifth in the UK, thanks to the availability of an outstanding talent pool, first-class infrastructure and excellent value for money.

Unsurprisingly, it is home to a burgeoning list of American companies, including such recognizable names as JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Lockheed Martin.

Multinational investment bank JP Morgan’s European Technology Center in the heart of Glasgow’s International Financial Services District (IFSD) employs more than 1,500 highly skilled technologists, developing complex software and technology services for use by JP Morgan across the globe.

And global financial services firm Morgan Stanley has based its operations in Glasgow since 2001. The city is home to Morgan Stanley’s fifth biggest office globally and its second biggest office in Europe.

John McGrory, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, said: “We looked at Scotland as a key supply for talent first and foremost, and chose Glasgow as a great fit for Morgan Stanley. Much of that was to do with the infrastructure, the number of universities, and the relative cost to the organization in aspects like real estate.”

And aerospace firm Lockheed Martin relocated to Glasgow from nearby Renfrewshire three years ago, commenting that Glasgow and central Scotland was ‘the ideal location’ due to the strength of the local universities and science and technology sectors.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and City Convener for Inclusive Economic Growth, has no doubt about the attractive investment opportunities the city can offer American companies.

“Glasgow is a young and growing city, with three outstanding universities and a highly-skilled workforce,” she said. “The levels of investment coming into the city in recent years underline the confidence investors have in the city as a great location to do, and develop, business. A significant reason for this confidence is the supportive environment for businesses in Glasgow, with the public sector working closely with businesses and organizations of all sizes.” It is this triple helix of cooperation among universities, businesses and the public sector that has made Glasgow Scotland’s economic powerhouse, generating $58bn GVA in 2016.

The city straddles the famous River Clyde in west-central Scotland and sits at the center of Scotland’s only metropolitan region of 1.8 million, while the population of the greater Glasgow conurbation is around 2.3 million, accounting for 43% of Scotland’s entire population.

Once the world’s pre-eminent shipbuilding center, renowned for its prowess in traditional manufacturing and heavy industry, today Glasgow is a contemporary, vibrant and exciting 21st century city where people choose to live and invest.

At $1.76bn, the Glasgow City Region City Deal is among the largest in the UK and focuses on creating smart, enabling infrastructure to future-proof the region’s development capacity.

Glasgow achieved GVA of $28 billion in 2016, and has a diverse and resilient economy based on the strength of eight key sectors: health and life sciences; low carbon; financial and business services; engineering design and advanced manufacturing; digital technology; creative industries; tourism and major events; higher and further education.

It is also emerging as Scotland’s digital powerhouse, with a burgeoning digital sector which accounts for 19% of the UK’s digital high growth companies. Described in the 2017 Tech Nation report as a digital tech heavyweight, Glasgow has the highest number of jobs and generates the greatest GVA in Scotland within the sector.

And with the new Gigabit City fibre network currently adding to the city’s digital infrastructure, internet connectivity will soon be up to 100 times faster than the UK average.

Underpinning the city and city region economy are Glasgow’s three world-class universities (University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University), the renowned Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire, as well as three super colleges.

And Glasgow boasts one of the largest student populations in the UK, with some 133,000 students from 135 countries. Graduate retention rates are among the best in the UK ensuring an outstanding pool of talent for investors and indigenous businesses alike.

It offers access to the very best talent pool with an established Financial and Business Services workforce in excess of 53,500 people and ranked no. 1 of the UK’s 10 core cities for producing the highest number of financial and business graduates.

The latest Global Financial Centers Index ranked Glasgow in the Top 50 of the world’s best performing financial centers and in the Top 15 of Europe’s best performing financial centers. The city has the third most important financial center in the UK with a world-class Financial and Business Services environment consisting of Glasgow’s IFSD and numerous centers of excellence underpinned by a robust collaboration of industry, academia and the public sector.

As a pre-equipped business area, the IFSD is designed to allow fast track occupancy by firms seeking a new UK location for their operations. Since 2001, the District has secured $1.35bn of investment offering state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure.

Glasgow has a thriving private equity and venture capital market for companies looking to access capital to scale up and expand. Tailored solutions that meet business requirements provided by a well-established and sophisticated Financial and Business Services support network including access to extensive inward investment incentives such as job creation grants, low taxes, dedicated business support and much more.

And for investors with an eye on the bottom line, Glasgow offers a high quality of life coupled with significant labour and property cost savings compared to Edinburgh and London.

Last year saw record levels of capital investment in the city, estimated at over $800m. Businesses choose Glasgow for many reasons, including the quality and loyalty of the flexible and qualified workforce, the cosmopolitan feel of a large city, access and connectivity and world-class and cost effective office space.

Having attracted over $20bn capital investment since 2011, it seems clear that Glasgow is commanding global recognition as an ambitious, dynamic and vibrant city. And as Ambassador Johnson noted on his visit last year, Scotland’s economic importance to the United States cannot be underestimated.

The connections forged over the centuries have established a close and highly beneficial trading partnership between the two countries; a partnership which looks set to thrive well into the next century.