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28 Feb 2024

East Midlands Chamber and East Midlands Freeport sign strategic partnership to unlock potential for ‘once-in-a-generation’ economic opportunity

Two economic heavyweights in the East Midlands have joined forces to help make the region an enticing destination for overseas investors.

East Midlands Chamber, the largest chamber of commerce in the UK and business representation organisation in the region and East Midlands Freeport have entered into a strategic partnership agreement that aims to maximise the economic potential of having the UK’s only inland freeport located in the region.

The freeport provides tax and customs benefits to businesses that locate themselves across three tax sites in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire with the goal of attracting foreign direct investment that will create jobs and boost skills in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics. The ability to retain business rates will also help drive economic regeneration across the region.

The partnership will involve co-ordinated activity between the organisations on inward investment, harnessing the Chamber’s relationships with local MPs and Government decision-makers. The Chamber will also support the freeport to identify businesses that could become customs site operators. Any business that operates in the Freeport’s 45km diameter enclosed zone, centred on East Midlands Airport can apply to become a customs site operator to receive a number of VAT and Duty benefits.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The Chamber is the only organisation that has a territory to match that of East Midlands Freeport so we are delighted to be playing a key role in unlocking the potential of a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our region.

“We were one of the biggest supporters during the freeport’s formation, having called for a free trade zone around East Midlands Airport to maximise the potential of having the UK’s busiest pure freight airport on our doorstep as far back as 2018 in our Business Manifesto for Growth.

“It’s exciting to see the freeport now fully operational, and this strategic partnership is a major milestone in getting the word out to both businesses in our region who can benefit as customs site operators and to those overseas about why the East Midlands is a great place to invest and do business.”

Over a 30-year period the freeport expects to add £9bn to the East Midlands economy and create tens of thousands of jobs while retaining £1bn of business rates to be spent locally. Since receiving formal Government approval in March last year, it has already attracted £150m of investment and created 300 jobs.

Space Park Leicester was confirmed as the first customs site operator, while its three tax sites are located at East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC), East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) and the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station redevelopment site.

East Midlands Freeport Chief Executive Tom Newman-Taylor said: “We’re very pleased to be able to announce our strategic partnership with East Midlands Chamber. The Chamber will perform a vital supporting role for the Freeport by helping to identify and contact businesses who will benefit from the customs reliefs we can provide, lend us their investment expertise and help to raise our profile with their 4,000 members.”