Professor Michael Luger is a Director of the Centre for Infrastructure Development at Manchester Business School
Even before last week’s announcement that an important Chinese partner had agreed to enter the joint venture that will develop Airport City, I was excited about that project. The partnership with the Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) makes the proposition even more attractive for this region.
Airport City is important for the region in the same way Media City, Spinningfields, the Eastlands Development project, and the Manchester Corridor (among others) are significant: they are sizable regeneration schemes that have or will improve both the physical appearance of the region and the long-term job outlook. Investment in Media City includes a £650 million stake by Peel Holdings; BBC occupies some 450,000 square feet of space. Spinningfields added another £1.5 billion in investment from London Allied Properties and 430,000 square feet of prime space. The deal between Manchester City Football Club and the City of Manchester for Eastlands includes £1 billion in investment. And the expected investment in the Corridor Project is £2.5 billion. These projects are located in the city centre, the northwest sector, and the southwest sector of the region.
Airport City, south of the city centre adjacent to Manchester Airport and within the recently designated Enterprise Zone, is an £800 million scheme leading to 5 million square feet of mixed use: offices, hotels, advanced manufacturing, logistics, and warehouses. Its location will appeal to businesses that seek easy international connectivity, whilst having access to the labour force and expertise located in Greater Manchester. The Airport City concept has worked in other major regions around the world, including Inchon (Korea), Schiphol (Amsterdam), and Barcelona.
Greater Manchester’s regeneration projects, taken together, cover several important industrial sectors and already are adding jobs to the region’s employment base. Airport City’s developers estimate that 14,000 new jobs ultimately will be generated.
The involvement of a major Chinese investor makes the project even more significant because it binds greater Manchester more closely to the world’s second largest, and increasingly important, economy. The connection with BCEG is a vote of confidence in the future of Manchester that is not lost on other potential Chinese investors. Outside London, Manchester already is the best-known British region in China – drawing thousands of visitors every year. And Chinese tourists spend more per capita than those from other countries, which recently motivated the Home Office to streamline the visa process for Chinese visitors. In addition, local universities enrol thousands of Chinese students. The flow of people between China and Manchester will increase more when non-stop air service begins in the near future.
Airport City is one more reason Greater Manchester deserves the moniker: Britain’s Second City. Congratulations to MAG and the region’s leaders for forging the recent partnership.