An unexpected centre of business

Colin Kniveton, CEO at the Department for Economic Development, Isle of Man discusses the potential for investing in a remote destination

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Located just off the North West coast of Britain, the Isle of Man is a place developing a reputation as a leading international business centre. The Island is a small and self-reliant nation, which allows for effective partnerships between public and private sectors. This, coupled with a supportive government, means it has thrived as a location in which to do business.

This is evidenced by a recent report from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development which indicates that in 2009 there was an eight percent increase in business travel to the Island, compared to 2008. This equates to 78,549 business visitors in 2009. The most recent Quarterly Economic Report also estimated that the economy would grow at a rate of 2.5 percent through 2009 and 2010.

To explain the Isle of Man’s success in attracting business, observers must first look to its reputation as a financial services centre. However, unexpected areas of the economy continue to thrive. In recent years, the government has also pursued a policy of economic diversification, spanning e-Gaming, high-tech manufacturing, space tourism and aircraft and ship registration.

The Isle of Man’s manufacturing sector is the second largest contributor to the economy, with a particularly strong contingent of aerospace manufacturing companies. From this has arisen the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster, which unites the 16 aerospace manufacturers and service providers on the Island. Recently it has been involved in major global projects such as the manufacture of the Airbus A380, Boeing Dreamliner and the Phoenix Mars Lander.

Developments within the space sector have also been significant. For example, the Island is home to Odyssey Moon, the first formal entry for the $30m Google Lunar X Prize. The prize is for the first privately-funded mission to send a robotic rover to the moon, travel 500m and transmit video images and data back to Earth.

The e-Gaming sector is another of the Island’s fastest growing business areas, having enjoyed significant year on year growth since its beginnings, nine years ago. This growth shows no sign of slowing and consequently is a core area for future investment and development. The sector currently supports 550 jobs, an increase of 18 percent over the last year, with an increase of 20 percent (to 650 jobs) forecasted in 2010.

Another success story can be found within the Island’s shipping and aviation sector. The Isle of Man Ship Registry was launched just over 25 years ago and now has over 1,000 vessels on its Registry equating to over 10 million gross tonnes. In recent years the increasing numbers of super yachts being registered has led to a surge in demand for an Aircraft Registry, the idea being that yacht owners also often owned private jets, and thereby owners could efficiently register both assets with ease. This foresight has proved itself as the Aircraft Registry, since launch three years ago, has to date registered over 240 aircraft.

A range of financial incentives are also available as part of the Government Department of Economic Development’s Financial Assistance Scheme, offering capital grants and loans to businesses. As important as the financial assistance is the accessibility of key decision makers and the specialist consultants the Isle of Man Government employs across the different sectors. Not only does this engineer a collaborative culture but they understand how business works and act as an important and trusted links between the public and private sector.