Hollywood Agency Principal Darlene recently traveled to Northern England with the British American Business Council of New England as part of a mission to investigate trade relationships and off-shoring opportunities between New England firms and businesses in the U.K. She spoke with fellow marketer John Cass about her impression of the state of digital in the Northern Powerhouse region.
John: You recently took a trip to the North of England on a trade mission. Can you describe the purpose of the mission and detail the trip?
Darlene: The trade mission to the North of England was led by the British American Business Council of New England to foster transatlantic relations in the wake of Brexit, which has led to a weakened pound and concerns surrounding European trading. As our two regions share so much in common – in terms of industry, innovation and education –it’s the ideal location for Bostonians to look to bridge business partnerships.
Over the course of a week we met with business leaders in Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle. We were hosted by major corporations including Caterpillar and Paragon and were individually paired with small and mid-sized businesses with whom we could potentially do business.
And, we did also get some downtime dining at wonderful local restaurants, visiting Durham Cathedral and Trinity House. The people we met were extremely hospitable and through this trip I’ve made some lasting friendships.
John: Boston has long been a center for the tech industry. Did you explore the history of the tech industry in the North? If so can you tell us more?
Darlene: The Northern Powerhouse region, as it’s called, is comprised of six cities (Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and the North East). It is well-educated with 23 universities lending innovative talent to the area. About 20 percent of all businesses in the region can be classified as knowledge intensive business services (KIBS), compared to London’s 30 percent. Industries that are really thriving include advanced manufacturing, creative and digital media, energy and environment, life sciences and healthcare, and financial and business services. Technology clearly plays a part in each.
John: What’s the state of the venture and Angel marketplace in the north of England for digital companies?
Darlene: Harriot Cross, the British Consulate-General, Boston, who also attended as a delegate shared with some of our host companies that more venture funding came out of a single floor in her Kendall Sq. office building than in all the UK. So, I’m not sure there’s a parallel in terms of dollars invested. It may be that the cost of doing business and the local talent pool somewhat offset funding issues.
John: What’s the current state of tech in the North of England? Companies, employment, and the future?
Darlene: The difference in the cost of doing business in the Northern region vs. London is significant. The cost of running a business in the North is as much as 40 percent cheaper than in London and salaries are also typically 30 to 40 percent less. As such, it appears to have a burgeoning business environment.
John: What are the strengths for tech and digital in the North? Industries etc.
Darlene: Because I have a particularly strong penchant for creative and digital services, I spent a good amount of time meeting with Northern agencies. I was surprised to learn how much business both creative and digital agencies are generating in the US, as they’re able to offer comparable (if not better) service at a fraction of the cost. I expect to see more competition from the region coming into play here in the States and am considering how to offshore work to the region.
John: Lastly, tell me more about your business, and Hollywood Agency?
Darlene: At Hollywood Agency, we make brands famous! We’re a public relations and social media agency partnering with compelling brands whose culture and values mirror our own. We work with innovators in consumer goods, business services, and technology. Named one of the fastest-growing private companies in Massachusetts for two years running, we have offices in Boston and San Francisco. To learn more, visit hollywoodagency.com or follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This Q&A originally appeared on John’s PR Communications blog.