· 1 min read · Features

City spotlight: Southampton

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Southampton has always been a port, but now you’re far more likely to see glamorous cruise liners than medieval warships docking here. The marine sector remains a vibrant part of this south coast city’s economy (it’s worth £3.6 billion and supports more than 48,000 jobs), and it’s the UK’s cruise capital.

"The cruise ships are the wow factor for Southampton," says Sally Lynskey, CEO of Business South. But there's more to this city than just messing about in boats.

The city is recognised as the commercial, cultural and retail capital of the south coast. There are more than 7,600 businesses operating here, providing employment for about 120,000 people. It is home to household names IBM, Zurich and B&Q.

High-tech manufacturing is particularly strong. Seven of the 10 leading global aerospace companies have a base in the area, including BAE Systems, Boeing and GE Aviation. And Southampton University recently announced it is partnering with marine and shipping company Lloyd's Register Group to launch a state-of-the-art marine technology and research centre of excellence, incorporating Lloyd's Register's new global technology centre.

Southampton University is a major attraction for talent and business.

Tim Berners-Lee, the man behind the world wide web, studied here and still has links with his alma mater. So it's no wonder the technology sector is thriving.

Then there's the city's excellent transport links. Southampton's nickname is the 'Gateway to the World'. As well as boats going all over the world, Southampton Airport offers flights to UK and European cities. Rail links and easy access to the M3 provide travel options to London.

Walk around Southampton, and you'll see history everywhere - the 14th century city walls are still partly intact - but this is a city with its eyes set firmly on the future.

"We are a city of opportunity," says Lynskey. "The development hasn't stopped in the recession and there is so much potential for growth."

The City Centre masterplan aims to bring more than 24,000 new jobs, 5,000 new homes and £3 billion of investment into the city by 2030. This major project is mainly down to the local business "champions", says Lynskey.

"We have very strong business networks. By bringing businesses together you get that collective influence to make things happen."

Vital statistics:

Population: 239,400

Thriving sectors: Technology, manufacturing, distribution

Southampton contributes £4.9 billion to the UK economy

Where people are employed: Healthcare (17.3%), education (12.6%), retail (10.9%), business administration and support services (9%), professional, scientific and technical (6.3%).

Average annual income of workforce: £27,909

Two universities: Southampton University and Southampton Solent