Inward Investment, in a Pandemic. Still we rise….

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By Jonathan Martin, Director of Inward Investment, Economic Growth and Housing Delivery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Firstly, thank you to Cratus, for the invitation to write this piece.

“I see you…” – meeting new and existing developers and investors using MS Teams or Zoom is great and efficient, but may lack that certain quality personal connection, and can be draining over prolonged periods. In a sector that has relied on face-to-face presence at a venue, it is so important to remember the benefits of impromptu discussions and chance meetings. They so often add to the success of attendance at physical events. This is not easy across a video screen, with technical issues that may crop up, but we’re working effectively to keep conversations alive.

“Who are you?”  – whenever I approach a new audience to promote Waltham Forest’s investment opportunities, I focus on what the audience wants and expects from a meeting – and how I will meet those expectations and create a positive experience for all.  I believe the way to do this is through clear communication of our priorities and development vision, our opportunities and most importantly – conveying certainty of our future commitment to instil confidence.

“Survival of the quickest” – as the economic consequences of Covid-19 become clearer, inward investment will become more important than ever. We all face ever-more selective budgetary pressures on how and where we invest our time and money. Instilling confidence to our investment and development partners is critical and I believe our actions will be determined by ‘survival of the quickest’. This includes our early adoption of virtual planning committees and council cabinet meetings. At the time of writing, we’ve held two virtual planning committees, and a virtual cabinet meeting where we gained approval for circa a thousand new homes and over half a billion pounds of council-led capital investment plans. My colleagues’ great strides in these areas, brought positive feedback from our friends, development and investor partners.

“We’re all in this together” – my inward investment role, includes focus on working to help our high streets and town centres recover, by attracting new investment through existing and new developers and investors, ideally with mixed-use regeneration schemes and innovative solutions.  We’ll need to evolve with our high streets and town centres through this period of crisis, as we stride forward in our economic recovery plans.  We’ll also need our existing and new investors and developers to keep investing in our borough, so we can work towards a better future together.

“…Would Like To Meet..” – I have found, so far, that the enthusiasm to meet and greet and discuss investment opportunities remains very strong, even if only on a  videocall at this stage. These meetings usual end with a promise of a future face to face meeting. I rely on strong professional partnership networks and key people within these companies, to help promote our borough; they have run national and international events. We plan to attend several virtual events in the runup to this summer and beyond. Virtual investors’ briefings and tours are now the order of the day.

An effective inward investment strategy will work best with a flexible approach to attract and work with both private and public sector partners, virtually and in person.

In my role, I want to attract innovative high-quality investors and developers, who want to work with us to build new homes and create new jobs.  We remain steadfast in our approach of securing new investment and continue to be a council of choice to do business with.

Our first online event, Sitematch365 will be on the afternoon of 29 May. We will also be a several more events so if you want to find out more – please get in touch and see what we are all about.

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