British diplomat sees opportunities for Grand Valley businesses

Beverly Simpson

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A British diplomat building relationships between Colorado and the United Kingdom sees potential in the Grand Valley for increased exports of agricultural products and wines as well as more tourism business from visiting Brits.

Regardless of what industry sector is involved, though, a wide range of information and assistance is available to promote trade between the state and country, said Beverley Simpson, consul general at the British Consulate in Denver.

Simpson met with local business and health care leaders on a recent swing through Western Colorado. She said outreach is an important part of her efforts to learn more about the areas her consulate serves as well as increase awareness about the consulate and potential trade and investment opportunities with the United Kingdom.

A 23-year veteran of the British diplomatic corps, Simpson has served in posts around the world, including China, India and, for two years, Iraq. She’s served in her latest post about 18 months.

The Denver consulate is the smallest of 11 British consulates in the U.S. with only three employees, but a busy operation, she said. “We’re a very active and busy office. We’re punching well above our weight.”

Simpson said she represents the British government in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming on matters of commercial and economic interest as well as political and academic issues.

Colorado and the United Kingdom constitute important export markets for each another with about $500 million worth of total trade annually, she said. Moreover, British firms rank among among the biggest international employers in Colorado, accounting for about 14,000 jobs.

The United Kingdom offers an increasingly accommodating place in which to conduct business, Simpson said, with reduced corporate taxes, liberal employment laws and a strengthening economy.

The United Kingdom also offers a good base from which to conduct business with the rest of Europe. “It’s an attractive jumping off point to the European Union.”

At her first glance of the Grand Valley, Simpson said she sees opportunities for increased exports of agricultural products and wines.

A proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union would help, she said, in standardizing regulations and reducing barriers. “It’s going to be hugely beneficial.”

She hopes an agreement can be reached within two years.

Simpson also sees potential in the Grand Valley for increased business from tourists from the United Kingdom.

British travelers rank first among international tourists who come to Colorado for skiing and other winter activities and third overall behind only travelers from Canada and Mexico, she said.

A growing number of British tourists come to Colorado in the summer to take advantage not only of the longer break for school children, but also such seasonal activities as whitewater rafting and mountain biking.

In addition, more British tourists  purchase package vacations in which they travel by rental cars to national parks and other attractions in the region on a loop that could take them through the Grand Valley.

Regardless of the industry sector involved, the British consulate can help businesses interested in export and investment opportunities with the United Kingdom, Simpson said. That includes not only general information, but also specific information about certain locations and logistics and legal advise about employment and taxation issues.

The staff in Denver works with staff in other consulates that specialize in certain industries as well as the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, she added.

The ultimate goal, Simpson said, is to promote trade and investment that bolsters the economies of Colorado and the United Kingdom. “We see it as a win-win.”