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Things can only get better… We speak with Paul Grover, regional Director at WYG

February 15, 2013

My father was a cartographic surveyor so I grew up surrounded by plans and maps and developed an interest in mapping at a young age. I shadowed my father during school holidays on surveying projects such as Canary Wharf, Cardiff Bay and the A27 dual carriage project. As all I ever got to do was stand in a high visibility jacket in all weathers holding a Theodolite on a tripod I knew that whilst I wanted to do something with maps and plans I very much wanted to do it indoors. It wasn’t until I met a town planner at a career fair when I was 14 that I understood such a profession existed. The planner I met was Geoff Smith, then of Chris Blandford Associates, who mentored me through my GCSE’s, A-Levels, then he helped me to decide which university course to select and helped me with my application. So I went to Cardiff University and I stayed in contact with Geoff all the way through. Then when it came to my placement year Geoff advised me on the best company to apply for, which ended up being the Environment Agency as it gave me a good environmental planning grounding. After a year in London working on projects such as the Greenwich Millennium Dome and Lee Valley Park I returned to Cardiff to complete my Post Graduate Diploma. Then Geoff hired me to work in their Cardiff office! After working for Chris Blandford Associates I went on to work for GVA Grimley, RPS, Arup, Knight Frank and now WYG

Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date, presumably Geoff Smith?
Actually, no. There was a teacher I had when I was a lot younger, who believed in me and said I could go on and do great things. She worked with me intensively to address my confidence through correcting a speech impediment I had at the time. Given I now speak at large conferences with many hundreds of delegates I am glad she did. She must be coming up to her mid eighties now and whilst she tells me she is proud of me she still insists on pushing me to try harder – once a teacher!

What opportunities has WYG given you?

It’s enabled me to work, not only on the largest regeneration project in the UK – Liverpool Waters (www.liverpoolwaters.co.uk) but also it’s enabled me to travel the world and understand other markets. I spent 2 years researching the Chinese market for WYG and the company supported me in learning conversational Mandarin through sponsorship of a course with the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. WYG also see value in training staff in cultural awareness and local business etiquette for use overseas. They’ve also supported me in other opportunities, such as when I was asked to represent the city of Manchester at the Common Purpose future leaders’ conference in Abu Dhabi last year. WYG paid for my course tuition and I took the time off as leave to attend the event. Following the event I was then invited to talk at a future city leader’s conference in London to 50 Chinese business leaders. WYG have also continued to support and encourage me in terms of my UKTrade and Investment links, letting me sit on the Liverpool International Board and supporting my position as a UK Trade and Investment Export Champion. So in terms of opportunities, WYG has been very generous in supporting me. At the same time it has benefits to the business as a number of my business contacts established in Asia and the Middle East are now looking at investment opportunities in the UK as well as working with WYG in those countries.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?
So, having spent the last 4 years securing outline planning consent for Peel Holdings’ ambitious Liverpool Waters scheme, the challenge now is actually delivering Liverpool Waters over the next 30 years. When that all starts up again that will take up a significant amount of my time in terms of the next stage of Liverpool Waters. I’ve also got a number of other projects in the region that I’m working on at the moment where I’m working directly with overseas foreign investors. That funding is coming from India and we’re also looking at funding from the Middle East too. We’re also getting some interest from some companies in Hong Kong on some development opportunities. So really my overseas research has helped in securing this business and that’s a big part of my WYG work. Also part of my role sitting on the Liverpool Chamber and Professional Liverpool, is supporting Liverpool hosting the International Festival for Business 2014 (www.ifb2014.com). It’s a UK business exhibition for the world, a business version of the Olympics, fully backed by David Cameron, the largest event of its kind in a generation. The aim is to promote UK business overseas, it runs for 61 days and over 250,000 visitors will be coming from around the world. I’m currently trying to secure a couple of high profile international events to tie in with the festival, which are planning related but I can’t talk much more about them at the moment…

When you’re not working or travelling around the world for work, what do you enjoy doing?
I help out a few people with their bands, supporting them at gigs playing the keyboard. I sometimes play for 90’s “Things can only get better” pop group D:Ream, filling the shoes of Brian Cox who’s gone on to bigger and better things since his days in the band. I’ve also been helping out a couple of Manchester and Liverpool based dance groups who were big in the early 90’s that are still around flogging their one hit on the club circuit. It’s an interesting break from writing planning statements and it definitely helps with conference speaking – if you can do a gig in front of 1,500 – 2,000 people then talking to a few people at a conference isn’t really such a big deal.

Paul Grover is a Regional Director at WYG. He is both a chartered Town Planner and a member of the Institute of Economic Development who advises clients on all aspects of commercial development and urban regeneration. He has recently secured unanimous planning approval for Europe’s largest riverside regeneration project, Liverpool Waters. The project will see the investment of £5.5 billion ($8.6 billion / €6.7 billion) into Liverpool and regeneration of 60 hectares of derelict docklands. As well as urban regeneration opportunities in the UK Paul is also tasked with supporting WYG’s growth in Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Paul is also a UK Trade & Investment North West Export Champion for 2013 and is a regular speaker on inward investment as well as exporting goods and services. Paul has been a guest speaker at the Chinese Dao Xing Future Leaders Conference in London and Paul also represented the city of Manchester at the Common Purpose Itijah Venture in Abu Dhabi. He regularly speaks at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce events and was recently a key note speaker at the Westminster Business Forum.

Paul sits on the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce International Trade Committee is also a member of Professional Liverpool which is a membership organisation that provides a collective voice for the financial and professional services community in Liverpool and its wider economic area.

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