THE MP for Portsmouth South is spearheading bold efforts to secure tens of millions of pounds from the Middle East to bring prosperity to the region.
Flick Drummond jetted out to the United Arab Emirates in a bid to win over wealthy investors who can transform Portsmouth’s economy and make it a thriving international destination.
Mrs Drummond wants multimillionaires to spend their cash creating the city’s first five-star hotel to attract more lucrative visitors which would see more top companies want to move their businesses to the city.
And she is hoping to convince foreign entrepreneurs to inject millions into the creation of the much-delayed Northern Quarter shopping complex off Market Way, a plan that’s been talked about for more than 10 years and never happened due to cash and legal wrangles.
She also wants more money to make the University of Portsmouth to become an elite educational institute.
The trip, which ends today, has already seen her hold talks with Sir Tim Clark, president of Dubai airliner Emirates, which bought the naming rights to the Spinnaker Tower last year.
I have taken every opportunity to bang the drum for Portsmouth during my time here.Flick Drummond, Portsmouth South MP – talking from United Arab Emirates
On top of this she has been talking to officials from the Federal Supreme Council, a minister for foreign affairs, a local business community, New York University Abu Dhabi and developers Masdar, which is behind the creation of the UAE eco-friendly Masdar City.
Speaking from the UAE, Mrs Drummond said: ‘I have taken every opportunity to bang the drum for Portsmouth during my time here.
‘It’s vitally important the city finds inward investment and as one of the city’s MPs it’s my role to support Portsmouth and raise its profile at every opportunity and in every location.’
She is convinced foreign investment could help transform the prospects of the city.
To promote this, she handed out brochures drafted by the city council and promotional videos of Portsmouth – all of which she said went down well with delegates.
Key to her vision of a more prosperous Portsmouth is securing the backing of business giants like Emirates.
‘Emirates is keen to help our community. We need a lot of investment to support the Northern Quarter, there are a lot of things in Portsmouth that need help. One of my main jobs is to bring investment to Portsmouth,’ she said.
‘There is money out there, in foreign industries all over the world. This is just the start. We’ve got to go out and see what is available.’
During the visit, Mrs Drummond was able to tour port facilities, a university and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre where satellites are produced.
The Tory MP said the space centre could link up with aviation and military companies in the Portsmouth area – something she is keen to see happen. She hopes Portsmouth will ‘reap the rewards in the years to come’ but stressed the talks were no sure guarantee of investment.
‘This was not a trade delegation and I have no power to sign deals,’ she explained.
‘It’s about influence and being enthusiastic about Portsmouth and making sure that the city is in the minds of those who can invest.’
Fellow city MP Penny Mordaunt said this was an ‘exciting time’ and that Portsmouth ‘ought to think big’.
She was keen to see investment in the Northern Quarter but said lessons of the past must first be learnt.
To make the site a success it needed to offer more than just retail – leisure facilities and hotels should also be on the cards, she said.
‘We need to keep the momentum up on Tipner too; it is one of the gateways to the city and developing it, along with commencing the country park will make a huge difference,’ Ms Mordaunt added.
‘In all the deals the city may do in the future we should also ensure transport planning forms part of it – there is no one silver bullet, but we need better public transport, car pool and bike schemes and some radical parking solutions too.’