The United Kingdom is on a mission to slash red tape and increase dialogue between business and government in order to fuel more rapid economic recovery, the country’s top investment recruiter in the U.S. told GlobalAtlanta.
New policies emerging from London show that the country is serious about addressing companies’ concerns and removing hurdles to competitiveness, said Danny Lopez, British consul general in New York and the head of UK Trade & Investment, or UKTI, in the U.S.
This climate of cooperation was born out of necessity as both sides realized they were pursuing the same goal: pulling out of a prolonged downturn, he said.
“We’re all living in a world now where the rules have just changed dramatically, and now that there’s a whole set of new rules, we either come up with creative, innovative ways of doing things or we fail,” said Mr. Lopez. “Simple solutions are probably going to be the ones that work.”
The U.K. is going through its business regulations with a fine-toothed comb. The government is running the Red Tape Challenge through 2013 to solicit feedback from businesspeople on how to make regulation effective but not burdensome.
Government fixes have ranged from traditional to innovative. The corporate tax rate has been cut from 28 percent to 26 percent with an eye toward reducing it further to 23 percent, which would make it the lowest in the Group of Seven industrialized nations, said Mr. Lopez, who visited Atlanta on Sept. 29 to officially reopen UKTI’s office here.
Tax breaks are also offered to companies that establish research and development operations in the country, and the government is providing special visas for entrepreneurs who start companies there under the Global Entrepreneur Programme.
A new initiative is to give executives from 50 major companies – mostly domestic firms but some foreign companies with significant U.K. operations – a direct line to government ministers who oversee relevant departments.
“All those sorts of ideas, which are great ideas, are a result of government listening to business,” Mr. Lopez said.
The U.K. is intensifying efforts to recruit students, tourists and companies as the world’s eyes turn to London for next year’s Summer Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee, the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II‘s 60 years on the throne.
While the country is a long-time American ally and one of the top investors in the U.S., many Americans would benefit from “rediscovering” an economy that has been transformed over the last 50 years, Mr. Lopez said.
Like Atlanta’s, the U.K. economy is increasingly based on knowledge and innovation, with the government targeting growth in sectors like life sciences, digital media, energy and information technology. The goal is to diversify the industrial base while maintaining a competitive edge in traditional sectors like financial services and manufacturing.
The reopening of the UKTI office in Atlanta, which was closed more than two years ago amid budget cuts at home, is a nod to the ample room for further exchange between Georgia and the U.K., despite the fact that British companies already employ more than 35,000 people in the state.
In the few months that they’ve been here, UKTI representatives Stuart Moroney and Ian Stewart have been flush with trade and investment projects in both directions.
“I want to come down here in six months’ time and find that they are absolutely at full capacity, and that they’re telling me that they need more resources,” Mr. Lopez said.
Click here for more information on UKTI in Atlanta.
Read more: London’s Tech City Eyes Atlanta Partnerships