A delegation from West Yorkshire, led by Mayor Tracy Brabin, arrived in Toronto on 5 November. They will be travelling to Boston, New York, and Lititz, Pennsylvania this week to promote trade and investment.

Mayor Tracy Brabin is scheduled to meet with prominent business leaders from the US and Canada to highlight West Yorkshire as a prime destination for employment and economic growth.

As part of International Trade Week, supported by the UK Government, the Mayor will visit the North American offices of several local businesses to celebrate their achievements and discuss strategies for expanding and exporting to the US, Canada, and other global markets.

Commenting on the trip, Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said; “This trade mission is an exciting first for West Yorkshire – a chance to show the US and Canada what we’re made of, as we boost jobs, investment and opportunities for local people.

“We have so much going for us – bustling towns and glorious countryside, nationally celebrated cities of culture, and a work-life balance that makes our talented graduates want to stay in the region.

“As we continue to punch above our weight with an economy that’s bigger than several EU nations, now is the time to declare West Yorkshire open for business, as we build a stronger, brighter economy that works for all.”

This trade mission follows the appointment of aerospace manufacturing expert Mandy Ridyard as the Mayor’s Business Advisor. Ms. Ridyard has expressed her ambition to position the region as a top choice for businesses ready to launch or relocate.

Mandy Ridyard, Business Advisor to the Mayor of West Yorkshire, added; “At the heart of the UK and the Northern Powerhouse, West Yorkshire is the ideal place to start and scale a business, thanks to our innovative universities, our vibrant cultural offer, and our supportive eco-system of public-private partnerships.

“Consistently voted one of the happiest and best places to live in the UK, we can deliver the talent pipelines and upskilled workers our businesses need to thrive, with the majority of our graduates choosing to live, work and play in West Yorkshire than move elsewhere.

“And our sector strengths in healthcare and life sciences, digital and media, professional and financial services and advanced manufacturing and engineering, mean we can move forward with huge confidence in our abilities and global ambitions for the future.”

With seven universities, nearly 100,000 businesses, and an estimated £60 billion economy, the Mayor aims to attract the interest of major global investors looking to expand and export to the UK.

Mayor Brabin’s visit to multinational information technology company Cognizant, which recently pledged to create 1,000 new jobs in the region, is significant. With 160 people currently employed, many more opportunities in the tech and digital sectors are anticipated for West Yorkshire residents as the company continues to grow.

The Mayor’s visit to the New York office is expected to reinforce Cognizant’s commitment to the region, following their partnership with the Leeds Community Foundation to provide digital support and laptops to local charities. The company has also contributed a quarter of a million pounds to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to assist smaller digital businesses in hiring new apprentices.

Rohit Gupta, UK and Ireland Managing Director at Cognizant, said; “Opening a delivery centre in Leeds was an easy choice given the wealth of talent the city and surrounding area has to offer.

“I have been amazed at what the team has accomplished in a little over 12 months. We remain committed to Leeds and look forward to creating many more opportunities for the next generation of digital talent.”

Sarah Tulip, Head of the Leeds Delivery Centre at Cognizant, added; “Leeds is the most important part of the country to me. It is where I choose to live and I’m proud that Cognizant chose this city to open up our UK delivery centre.

“We are on a mission to empower people from under-represented backgrounds to shine in the north of England’s digital sector.

“I am grateful for all the team has achieved in our first year, for Cognizant, our clients, but most importantly the people of West Yorkshire.”

As well as looking to strike deals over jobs and inward investment, the Mayor will also meet with the US leadership teams of several leading West Yorkshire businesses, including the Academy of Live Technology, Turner & Townsend, and IMA-HOME.

Leeds-based IMA-HOME, the UK’s largest full-service integrated agency outside of London, has clients including Adidas, Hisense and the UK’s number one tour operator, Jet2. IMA-HOME is a 350-strong agency, with the majority based in West Yorkshire and growing international offices spanning New York, Sydney, Amsterdam and Cape Town.

Nickii Gray, Chief Executive Partner of IMA-HOME, said; “Though we have a global footprint and outlook, Leeds remains our agency engine room. The roots of IMA-HOME are in the rich talent coming out of the region’s excellent schools and universities, particularly in the creative and tech areas. West Yorkshire offers such a great quality of life that many young people are keen to secure the exciting career opportunities they want within the region.

“We have a significant and growing proportion of our business based in the States, and we plan to support that with talent from the UK, which in turn gives us the opportunity to grow the team in West Yorkshire.

“Thanks to our deep roots, the strength of capability here, from both a hearts and minds perspective, as well as current exchange rates making it more attractive than ever to outsource to the UK, Leeds will always be the heart of our business.”

Mayor Tracy Brabin, Mayor’s Business Advisor Mandy Ridyard, and senior officials from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will be hosted by Toronto’s Budget Chief Cllr Shelley Carroll, Boston’s Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu, and His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America and HM Consul General for New York, Emma Wade-Smith OBE.

Prew Lumley, Leeds Office Managing Partner at global law firm Squire Patton Boggs – which boasts its largest offices in Leeds, London, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. – will also be part of the West Yorkshire delegation.

This pioneering trade mission for West Yorkshire comes on the heels of the launch of the West Yorkshire Plan, which outlines a mission to create a prosperous region by facilitating the startup, growth, innovation, trade, and investment of businesses.

For more information about the West Yorkshire Plan, visit: https://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/growing-the-economy/the-west-yorkshire-plan/