Like most of Europe, the United Kingdom experienced economic woes and cuts in government spending in 2010, but there was a silver lining. Last November, the U.K.’s manufacturing sector showed its highest growth rate in 16 years.
In Manchester, folks were not surprised. Their city, a major driver in manufacturing growth, is also developing in other areas of interest to international business travelers, including new conference and event venues, museums, hotels and restaurants, as well as expanded airlift to Manchester International Airport from North America. For these reasons and others, including its reputation for friendliness, it’s the second-most-visited city in England (behind London) and third in the U.K. (behind London and Edinburgh). Manchester’s proximity to the cultural attractions of Liverpool, Chester and Cheshire give it added cachet for visitors.
Manchester has a history of innovation in manufacturing and commerce dating back more than 200 years. The Industrial Revolution was born here with the mechanization of the city’s many cotton mills. As Manchester made strides in engineering, mining and transport as well as cotton and other goods, it became a model “industrialized city” for the world.
Today it remains a highly desirable place to operate a business, second only to London in the U.K. According to a 2010 Cushman & Wakefield study, Manchester is also ranked in the top 10 for quality of communications, transportation within the city, transportation links to other cities and availability and value of office space. It continues to excel in cotton and other textiles; but it’s also a center for the arts, higher education and commerce as well as banking and legal services. Among the major employers are media and television companies — including several diverse divisions of the British Broadcasting Company and various digital game makers. Manchester is attracting business investors from all over the world who are drawn by the city’s infrastructure, affordability and labor pool.
Fittingly enough, the computer originated in Manchester in 1948, the brainchild of two Manchester University professors. But if you ask any Mancunian (yes, that’s what they’re called) what’s really important, he or she will tell you the city is home to two Premier League soccer teams — Manchester City and the famous Manchester United. As such, it is one of the wealthiest football cities in the world — and is outraged at losing the bid for the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
Mancunians are as serious about business as they are about football but much less demonstrative. Expect the caution and reserve that go along with the “stiff upper lip” British reputation. When you have a business appointment, be punctual, dress conservatively and wear laced shoes rather than loafers. Leave your striped ties at home to avoid wearing one that resembles a British regimental tie. Shake hands firmly and offer business cards to everyone in the meeting. If invited to a meal, don’t initiate the topic of business or ask personal questions of your hosts. You will be expected to indicate when you’re ready to leave so that they can, too. Don’t press for a quick business decision or you’ll likely lose the deal.
Beware of political pitfalls. The conversation may turn to George Osbourne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to the U.S. Treasury Secretary) who made massive cuts in government spending in 2010 that were welcomed in some corners and reviled in others. The total impact on the U.K. economy has yet to be seen.
Having shrugged off the economic ennui affecting many European cities, Manchester shows a full-speed-ahead attitude that is refreshing and exciting. Among the major projects is the Manchester Central Convention Complex (Manchester Central, Petersfield, tel 44 161 834 2700), which has greatly expanded its exhibition halls and conference facilities and can accommodate up to 40,000 visitors.
Sports of all kinds are big in Manchester. The Point (Lancashire County Cricket Club, Talbot Road, tel 44 161 282 4020) is a new venue on the Old Trafford Cricket Grounds that gives 1,000 attendees a bird’s-eye view of concerts and sporting events from a gallery running the length of the structure. Take a tour of the Manchester United (Old Trafford, tel 44 870 442 1994) historic football club and stadium.
The People’s History Museum (Left Bank, Spinningfields, tel 44 161 838 9190) reopened in early 2010 with expanded event and exhibition space charting the social history of the working class. Admission to the museum is free (there is a nominal charge for some events).
Manchester’s unique waterfront center, The Quays, is home to a wealth of entertainment, cultural and shopping venues. Its Imperial War Museum North (The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Trafford Park, tel 44 161 836 4000) has won many awards for its intimate portrayals of how people are affected by war.
An old standby in Manchester’s “must-see” category is the Museum of Science and Industry (Liverpool Road, Castlefield, tel 44 161 832 2244), a huge facility that chronicles the city’s many technological achievements in interesting and interactive ways. Visitors explore trains and planes and stars — and even an innovative Victorian sewer, complete with sounds, smells and rats, that played a part in the prevention of cholera epidemics.
When you reach information overload, it’s time for a change of pace — shopping, perhaps? In the heart of the City Centre is the U.K.’s largest inner-city shopping mall, the Manchester Arndale (Arndale Centre, tel 44 161 833 9851). It’s home to more than 240 stores as well as restaurants, bars and a 19-screen Odeon Cinema complex. This is only one of the massive shopping complexes in or near the city.
When the sun goes down, the city’s artists, musicians and actors hang out in the city’s Northern Quarter, a bohemian mecca with lots of live music venues and funky bars with names like Black Dog Ballroom (Church Street, tel 44 161 839 0664) and Odd (30-32 Thomas St., tel 44 161 839 0664). Though the Northern Quarter has the highest concentration, you can find lively pubs and equally lively music venues throughout the city. Not to be outdone by nearby Liverpool (origin of the Beatles), Mancunians are proud of their music, nightclubs and “real ale” — beer brewed and dispensed from unpressurized casks. Try the Timothy Taylor or the stronger Old Speckled Hen. Plan your research by way of the “pub staggers” itineraries at www.visitmanchester.com.
Info To Go
Direct flights from nearly 200 cities arrive at Manchester International Airport (MAN ), including many from North America. At the airport’s integrated transportation hub, The Station, you can catch trains to more than 100 destinations in northwest England and beyond. At least five trains an hour link the airport to Manchester’s Piccadilly Station in the City Centre, a 20-minute ride. Within the city, your best choice is the Metrolink (http://www.metrolink.co.uk) light rail. For more information, visit http://www.visitmanchester.com.
The Light Boutique Apart Hotel This apartment-style hotel has suites and penthouses overlooking Piccadilly Gardens. 20 Church St., tel 44 161 839 4848, $$$
The Princess Hotel This Victorian cotton warehouse-turned-boutique hotel retains the grand façade and offers 85 stylish and spacious guestrooms. 101 Portland St., tel 44 161 855 9136, $$$
Radisson Edwardian Hotel Manchester Enjoy spacious, classic guest-rooms and complimentary wireless Internet access in Manchester’s most celebrated building. Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, tel 44 161 835 9929, $$$
Sam’s Chop House
Zouk Tea Bar &
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