- Lawrence Bailey
So, is the feel good factor coming back?
A story I occasionally tell, when I’m in the mood, is how I once took an 8am flight out of Swansea Airport to London to confirm a land deal that would see a new stadium at Morfa. Things went so smoothly – including the Air Wales return flight - that I was back home by 3pm.
I learned a couple of things that day. The first that you can do a £27m deal by pressing a button. The other was that you simply can’t underestimate the influence of sport, and especially football, on economic well-being.
You would normally expect a massive political backlash if you sold off a public asset (the old Morfa athletics track) to finance the building of a spanking new venue for two privately-owned clubs, both of whom were on the brink of financial collapse; but you’d be wrong.
The reaction was a wave of approval; not just from loyal fans but also hard-nosed business people who backed the move.
Eight years later, I was among a throng of semi-delirious supporters who saw the Swans clinch a 4-2 play-off final win. Anyone who was there will always remember the travelling celebration party that stretched all the way from Wembley to the Severn Bridge tolls.
During our time in the Premiership, the media carried regular items about how being in the top-flight was a significant boon to the economy. The funny thing is, you had a bit of a struggle in establishing how these benefits were quantified.
It always ended up being an estimate, a few of which took some quite weird factors into account, such as average rainfall or car-parking charges.
Inevitably, things come down to a “feel-good factor” - and as anyone in the investment game will tell you, confidence is what makes the business world go round.
A place in the Premiership means national and international exposure. Much of the redevelopment now happening in the city stems from being recognised in previous years by outfits who operate in global markets.
Geography means we’ve always had to run three times fasters than places like Cardiff to even register on the investment radar. Things happen when key decision-makers have a clearer view of us and our ambition.
So, Good Luck for Saturday, guys. C’mon you Swans!
Back to the Future for infrastructure spending
Although the Swansea Bay region is attracting private investment, the same can’t be readily said of public sector cash. OK, you can argue that the City Deal imitative represents a good slice of state support but it’s still heavily reliant on a chunk of commercial input.
This corner of south west Wales has had its share of disappointments in recent times. Rail electrification never reached the city and a tidal lagoon was deemed “too expensive”. So it’s no surprise that attention switched to devolved alternatives.
What a pity however that the UK government’s plan to create Great British Railways to own and run the rail network infrastructure sees no role for Welsh input. It may be heralded as reform but it’s reform that only recognises priorities set in Whitehall.
Rail investment, especially at local and regional level, is already recognised as a catalyst for community regeneration. The same goes for cross-border linkages.
UK ministers may describe their plans as progress but for many in Wales it feels more like a case of Back to the Future.