Boston, Liverpool build ties
Cities form kinship with opportunities for businesses
LIVERPOOL, England - Last year, after the owners of the
Budden, the British consul general in Boston, believed there were great similarities between the cities in size and sentiment, and that Liverpudlians and Bostonians were kindred spirits. The cities’ images also are tightly wrapped in their respective teams, which play in the shadow of bigger, richer rivals: for the Red Sox, it is the
So why not tap into that kindred spirit when it comes to business opportunities?
In the spring, the consulate led a delegation of Boston-area business people here to explore opportunities to forge partnerships and other affiliations. On Monday, a Liverpool delegation is scheduled to arrive in Boston to do the same.
Much of Liverpool, including its huge, distinctive docks, has been revitalized in recent years, changing the city’s reputation for the better.
Hazel Williams, mayor of Liverpool, said it has come a long way.
“In the last 15 to 20 years, Liverpool has changed beyond all recognition,’’ she said. “The city did not have the best reputation. We’ve moved beyond that.’’
The city opened its own “embassy’’ in London to attract investment that normally - and Liverpudlians would argue, uncritically - goes to the British capital.
With 436,000 people inside the city limits, Liverpool is smaller than Boston. But Mike Taylor, deputy chief executive of Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development agency, said the metropolitan Liverpool area, with nearly 2.5 million people, is similar to Greater Boston in size.
Liverpool is also a college town, with about 50,000 students spread among three universities.
Jack Stopforth, chief executive of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said there are already business and familial connections between Boston and Liverpool, because so many people immigrated to the United States on ships that left from Liverpool. (His son worked for Reebok in Canton for a time, too.)
But it took sports to boost the idea of business relationship, Stopforth said.
“I don’t think we were able to spark much interest in Boston until after the takeover of Liverpool Football Club by John Henry and the Fenway group,’’ he said. “But now, I think people are seeing natural connections and opportunities.’’
The city’s designation as European capital of culture in 2008 was a huge boost for regeneration, both physical and psychological. Cracked sidewalks, once common, were gone. The waterfront was cleaned up.
Besides the physical changes, the citywide cleanup and new investment made Liverpudlians begin to believe they could do anything, again, which is how many of them would have felt at the end of the 19th century, given the dominance of their docks and engineering.
Liverpool One, a downtown retail, residential, and leisure complex, opened in 2008. At more than $1 billion, the investment was the biggest in Europe in the last decade.
And earlier this year, the British government made Liverpool one of 10 initial enterprise zones in the United Kingdom, which offer tax breaks and simpler planning rules for new companies.
“This secures long-term investment rather than simple regeneration,’’ Stopforth said.
A few areas of synergy are particularly well poised to take advantage of the enterprise-zone designation, he said - biomedical and biopharmaceutical, food and food processing, and advanced engineering.
During the Boston delegation’s spring trip, Terrence Masson, director of Creative Industries in the Department of Art and Design at Northeastern University, and Mike Cavaretta, an attorney with the Waltham firm of Morse, Barnes-Brown and Pendleton - who specializes in game development - chatted with Steve Smith, founder of Software City UK, which helps businesses in the digital and creative sectors get off the ground. They spoke the same language in more ways than one.
At a networking meeting at a Liverpool law office, a British lawyer approached Rick McKenna, president of WCM Partners, a Boston-based advertising agency, and said they were looking for a business partner in Boston.
“There’s a lot of energy in Liverpool,’’ said Masson. “You can feel it.’’
When one of Liverpool’s game-producing companies left town last year, taking more than 200 jobs with it to the US West Coast, some here bemoaned it, but Smith saw it as a natural development.
“Liverpool’s really grown up,’’ said Smith. “It’s Silicon-Valleyesque now. As companies grow up here, they’re sold, they move away, and something replaces it. Our economy is maturing.’’
The highlight for the Boston visitors to Liverpool was going to Anfield, Liverpool Football Club’s hallowed stadium, where they were treated to the spectacle of LFC putting a 3-0 beating on Manchester City. It was arguably the Liverpool team’s most impressive performance all season.
The Liverpool delegation will be at Fenway Park on Tuesday night to watch the Red Sox take on the
With the way the Red Sox have been going of late, maybe they’ll bring some good luck this side of the pond.