The region must action a “One Front Door” policy to attract more foreign investors, according to the region’s two leading business membership organisations.
The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and CBI have worked with members to compile a list of recommendations that would have the biggest impact on the region’s economy.
Both organisations believe a single entry point into the North East is a more efficient and effective approach to foreign direct investment (FDI), with investors presented with “One Front Door” to the region.
Business also wants greater collaboration and clarity of ownership of the process by which investors are brought into the North East.
Building on progress made by the LEPs and combined authorities, the report recommends the creation of a single regional team to take a lead on FDI activities to leverage the North East’s potential.
These changes would build on good practice in the region, including Tees Valley Unlimited’s success in attracting £3bn of investment over five years.
It is the second time that the region’s business community has collaborated in this way, having successfully lobbied the Government for a raft of transport infrastructure priorities, many of which have been approved in the last two years.
NECC chief executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “The “One Front Door” report represents a collective view from a broad spectrum of businesses and sets out how they feel this must be addressed regionally to maximise our potential as a world class business location with world class firms.
“It is vital inward investors receive a fully coherent approach, which makes the most of the opportunities that exist in all parts of North East England.
“There are real concerns from business that the current “UK First” policy fails to make the most of assets and advantages present right across our region, in order to maximise overall economic benefit from FDI.
“Regional geographical advantages are not being optimised. These include capacity in land or natural resources, transport connections, or proximity to specific sites such as offshore oil, gas or wind energy zones. There is also an absence of regional targets.
“The current approach must be amended, with greater regional expertise, more effective targeting and better links between national and regional agencies.”
Alison Thain, chair, CBI North East, said: “The North East has an impressive record of foreign direct investment which has resulted in thousands of jobs for the region.
“For each job created there are on average four further jobs in the local supply chain.
“This investment has introduced local businesses to international best practice and ways of working, and made it more resilient in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
“Looking ahead, inward investment remains vital to driving local growth and delivering even more jobs for the North East.
“A “one front door” approach will help us seize with both hands the opportunities to promote our region, and its many assets, to investors in key overseas markets.”
“Business is clear about what needs to be achieved and the size of the prize for the region. This report sets out one way of achieving this and is an important contribution to the debate about making the best of the North East’s strengths.”
According to the report, a regional body to boost FDI in the North East could help to identify target markets and sectors, market and represent the North East nationally and internationally, design and implement coordinated activities and programmes and stimulate inward investment.