How Business West is bridging the Atlantic and bringing the US closer to the South West

Kye Parkin
Communications Executive | Business West
29th July 2019

SMEs from across Bristol and the West of England descended on The Engine Shed for the Business West supported ‘America Made Easy’ seminar last week.

The event, which was the latest on a whistle stop tour around the country to help drive investment and exports to the US, provided businesses with the opportunity to learn from expert advisors on how to ‘land and expand’ in the US market.

The USA is one the UK’s closest global trading partners; however, the US market can be a tough nut to crack for SMEs. Despite our common language and special political relationship, the business landscape in the US varies dramatically from state to state, not only in terms of consumer behaviour and market demographics, but regulation and taxation rules too.

To help kick-start their journeys stateside, aspirant South West businesses looking to secure their share of the UK’s £112.2bn American export pie, sat down with Business West international trade advisors for a run through of current trends and sector opportunities in the States.

Business West has a long track record of helping South West businesses identify and exploit business opportunities on the east coast, west coast, mid-west and deep south. For example, Business West recently helped men’s grooming company Hawkins & Brimble, which is stocked in Boots, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, make a splash across the pond as the business secured a £250,000 contract and touched down at the luxury Central Market grocery chain in Texas.

A select handful of professional services firms plucked from the 21,000-strong Business West Chambers network were also on hand on the day to provide expert professional legal, HR and finance advice.

Simon Rowe, Partner of independent chartered accountants Milsted Langdon, presented a detailed breakdown of difference between accounting practices in the UK and US and Dr Frank Levene, who is an expert in facilitating investments into the USA, spoke at length about topics such as commercial property and payroll.

The event was the latest in a series of interventions by Business West to facilitate growth in transatlantic trade through directly supporting businesses and championing the South West as a global gateway to the US.

In June, Business West led a trade delegation comprised of some of the most innovative South West businesses to Boston and Chicago, in addition to supporting key local decision makers such as Metro Mayor Tim Bowles and representatives of our local universities to engage with their US counterparts.

Back in 2017, Business West was also part of a handful of business and city leaders on a visit to the USA, with the aim of fostering stronger economic and trade relations between US and the South West’s cities. Business West was nominated by Mayor Marvin Rees to attend the week-long series of talks, which included visits to high growth and high knowledge US cities including Pittsburgh, Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Owing to our unique position as the voice of business in the region, Business West was able to fly the flag for the South West at the White House, where we met with former President of the US Conference of Mayors Jerry Abramson, who played an active role in shaping the business agenda under the Obama administration.

Through our Business West Initiative and policy teams, we were instrumental in preserving the seafaring heritage that connects North America and the West, having spearheaded the refurbishment of the Matthew, in addition to supporting the expansion of Bristol Port and Airport and the resumption of direct weekly flights to New York.

Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West, comments:

“The demand for British-made goods in North America is growing at a rapid pace and it’s encouraging to see South West businesses tapping into this growing trend. HMRC figures show that exports from the South West of England generated nearly £21.5 billion of income for the UK in 2018, while a total of £3.8 billion of goods were exported to the U.S., accounting for 17.5% of South West exports overall. This is a great base from which to expand from and that’s why we have a team of 90 international trade specialists based across the South West to help firms with the full spectrum of export advice from identifying overseas markets right through to helping them get paid. Moreover, our Initiative and policy teams are working with key decision makers at a regional and national level to enhance the South West’s status as destination of choice for US businesses and investors to compliment and accelerate our work with businesses on the ground.”

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