Following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, London Gatwick Airport and its partners commissioned a piece of research, published today (July 26), on Airport Economic Zones (AEZs) to help it compete for inward investment; attract new, diverse industries and jobs; and secure its long-term economic prosperity.
The research looks at how other successful Airport Economic Zones (AEZs) across the world define, organize and promote themselves. AEZs are airports and their surrounding regions that organize collaboratively, so they are better able to identify and promote themselves to attract inward investment, benefitting both airports and their regional economies.
London Gatwick Airport commissioned economic recovery company Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to examine 11 successful AEZs including the UK Innovation Corridor – linking Cambridge, Stansted Airport and London – Manchester Enterprise Zone, East Midlands Freeport, and others around Singapore Airport, San Diego Airport, Barcelona and Tenerife airports in Spain, and Dublin Airport in Ireland.
Creating an evidence baseline, each was benchmarked using metrics including skills and innovation infrastructure, gross value added, average earnings and educational attainment levels. The same metrics were also used to examine three different economic areas around Gatwick including: the 600 square mile Gatwick Diamond region that stretches from Brighton up to Croydon and locations both east and west of Gatwick; the 1060 square mile Coast to Capital region with a network of functional economic hubs around Gatwick Airport, including Greater Brighton, West Sussex, East Surrey and Croydon; and the 3545 square mile Five Authorities region with all of West and East Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Brighton and Hove.
Conclusions on what constitutes a successful AEZ included a clearly articulated identity created from attributes that make a region stand out, the use of both local and national political power, and having skills, innovation and technical education at their heart.
To take these conclusions forward, Gatwick will work with its partners to host an inaugural Regional Economic Summit at Gatwick on November 3, 2022, for stakeholders (including local businesses and economic organizations) to discuss, debate and influence the shape and form of any future Gatwick AEZ. The summit will also focus on driving and elevating economic opportunities, sustainable long-term growth, promotion of the visitor economy and improvement of local workforce skills. Gatwick and its partners will also continue to support the project for an Institute of Technology hub at Crawley College and explore opportunities to partner with the new Crawley Innovation Centre while initiating discussions with inward investment specialists.
The airport has asserted that this report is a first step in understanding the landscape of AEZs and how this might apply to future approaches to developing a regional identity by Gatwick Airport and its partners. Following roundtable feedback on the research, the next steps that could help inform future work include examining successful city-based inward investment models, developing a greater understanding of what a successful Gatwick zone would look like, ensuring progress on a Gatwick AEZ link in with existing work, and exploring other geographies to include in any future Gatwick AEZ.
Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, said, “Airports are major economic assets to the regions around them and attract international recognition, investment and jobs. It’s a competitive marketplace, however, with the Levelling Up agenda influencing current domestic investment decisions and Brexit shaping things internationally.
“Given the serious impact the pandemic has had on the region, and with so many well-organized competitors, it is only right that our region works together to coordinate and tell a more compelling story about what we do best. This research is a positive early step. I look forward to working with our partners to create a successful regional identity that drives a thriving, resilient and diverse economy that makes a practical difference to our local communities and young people for generations to come.”
Anthony Middleton, acting CEO at Coast to Capital, said, “Gatwick Airport is at the geographic and economic heart of our area. As the local enterprise partnership for the region, we have always recognized the catalytic role the airport plays in our economy – driving growth, trade and jobs. I am really pleased that we have been able to contribute to this research and look forward to participating in future discussions with our partners and stakeholders on this topic.”
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