It seems that the silly season is no longer silly. There’s been no room for those headlines about cats on Segways or dogs on surfboards and the ‘news’, both real and fake, continued unabated throughout the long hot summer of 2018. But amongst all the noise there was one local item that was definitely and objectively real. The third annual ‘Inward Investment Results Report 2017/18’ was published in August by the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce. Not what you might consider typical holiday reading but this assesses the state of foreign direct investment or FDI in the area and it states, fact, that during this period, 191 FDI projects were recorded as entering the Thames Valley. This represents an increase of no less than 40% on the previous year. Of these 191, Berkshire attracted 81, the highest level of FDI projects ever recorded.
I know from my own constituency that the business park at Greenham is booming; just to the east of my constituency, at Theale, there are at least three recent new multinational tenants in the Arlington Business Park. I have also been to see the huge new factory space that Xtrac is in the process of adding to its site in Thatcham. This from a local company which exports around 70% of what it manufactures, mostly to France, Germany and Italy.
There’s a common thread here and it is an encouraging one especially when you place it in the context of the major new infrastructure projects that are improving transport links for all of us living and working in the Thames Valley: the third runway at Heathrow, recently approved by Parliament; Government support for the new Western Rail link into Heathrow which will make access to the airport much easier and speedier; the work that has just started on upgrading the M4 between junctions 12 and 3 to a smart motorway; the advent of Crossrail which will be become operational in 2019; and the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. The Thames Valley is the number one region outside London for securing foreign direct investment into the UK. To quote Paul Britton, CEO of the TV Chamber of Commerce, ‘We are the UK’s true “turbo-economy”, an international community that welcomes new businesses, whilst encouraging our resident companies to grow through trade and investment’. Silly season or not, that is good news.