5 February 2016
Marc Davies, Head of Environment, WYG, and Chair of ACE Northern Region, reports on the launch of "Business North" in Leeds this week. This article was first published in Infrastructure Intelligence.
I was delighted to attend the launch of Business North on Monday 1st February in Leeds, among a crowd of over eighty professionals, who, like me, are passionate about supporting growth in the north. I believe the inaugural gathering of this group marked a pivotal moment in the current efforts to make the Northern Powerhouse a tangible reality and success.
The group will be a cohesive force promising a single voice for the north. For the first time, it brings a pan-northern business focus and leadership to the Northern Powerhouse agenda, which have, so far, been largely political.
Hosted by KPMG and organised by CBI the event was an extremely positive start. Chris Hearld, North Region Chairman, KPMG, Carolyn Fairburn, Director General, CBI, and Sarah Green, Director: Regions and Nations, CBI, welcomed us to the meeting and set forth the intentions of the group to inform, challenge, engage and support central and local Government and other and agencies in decision making and key processes in relation to the Northern Powerhouse.
Bringing together professionals from across the north, it was striking to see the number of key influencers present. Among the participants were Vivian Hunt, Managing Partner UK, McKinsey and Ed Cox, Director, IPPR North, who debated on how the North can establish itself on the international stage.
David Brown, Chief Executive, Transport for the North, talked about connecting the North’s assets, and was joined in a question and answer session by Phil Jones, Chief Executive, Northern Powergrid, Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive, Northumbrian Water, and Steven Underwood, Chief Executive, Peel Holdings.
Conversations revolved around priorities to make the Northern Powerhouse a success and, consequently, what businesses can do to manifest this vision. The group will add some much needed weight when contributing to the Northern Powerhouse topic and its inclusivity adds to its force. Other enthusiastic businesses keen to contribute time, ideas, investment and intelligence are welcome to get involved.
The huge potential for mid size cities to deliver on growth was highlighted, using evidence taken form Europe and the US. But the emphasis was not just about cities; rural areas are an important component in the dynamic of how economic growth in the North will be realised. In particular Cumbria and Britain’s Energy Coast will play a critical part in the Northern Powerhouse, and must be integral to its growth and success. We at WYG have long held this view, with offices in Cockermouth and Carlisle, having been engaged in the energy sector in Cumbria, including being part of the Cumbria Nuclear Solutions Ltd consortium (CNSL).
The first Business North event, as well as bringing businesses together, demonstrated the value of a diverse group to focus on this issue.
The next phase for the group will be to establish a steering group, set a direction, priorities and develop action plans to take evidence-based decisions. The first priority will be transport and engaging with Transport for the North regarding the Northern Transport Strategy due to be published in March.