That was the message Stephen Bridges, the Chicago-based British Consul General, brought to a Louisville audience on Wednesday.
Bridges’ job is to increase business with the U.S., strengthen UK-U.S. relations and support British nationals living here. He spoke in Louisville this week to about 50 entrepreneurs and business owners, many of whom are tenants on the J.D. Nichols Campus for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The Nichols campus is being developed by the University of Louisville Foundation through its Nucleus: Kentucky’s Innovation Center affiliate.
Bridges stressed that economic conditions in the UK have improved dramatically since the worldwide recession. Productivity and employment are on the rise, and the manufacturing sector remains strong.
“We want more R&D,” Bridges said. “We want more high-tech industries.”
To attract growing companies from the U.S., the UK – particularly Great Britain – can offer a variety of tax breaks, research and development packages and other incentives, according to Bridges.
There also is a ready work force, respected universities and business incubators available to assist start-up enterprises, he said. “We want entrepreneurial development.”
Bridges is no stranger to Kentucky and admits to being a big fan of one of the state’s key exports — bourbon. He attended the Kentucky Derby this year as a guest of state economic development officials, and he has struck up a friendship with Nucleus CEO Vickie Yates Brown.
Bridges also applauded Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who took an economic development trip to the United Kingdom in May. He called the governor’s visit “real diplomacy.”
And he noted that the UK traditionally has had strong ties to Kentucky and currently imports nearly $1.5 billion in products from the state annually.