From 1999 to 2012 One North East was the Regional Development Agency for the North East of England. It led the economic development of the region and over its lifetime invested some £2.7 billion into the region’s economy and created 19,000 businesses and helped to create or safeguard 160,000 jobs.
From a commercial property point of view, One North East provided a one stop shop and a co-ordinated approach to inward investment. This helped the North East to compete on a level playing field with the rest of the country in terms of promoting the region.
We now have the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, the fourth largest in the UK covering the local authority areas of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.
The LEP is a business led strategic vehicle whose main role is to promote and develop economic growth in the North East. This is completely different from One North East. It lacks the financial clout of the RDA, and its roles include managing the Enterprise Zone sites around Nissan in Sunderland, the north bank of the Tyne and around the Port of Blyth.
We have cause for optimism. Attracting employers of the calibre of Nissan has had a considerable knock-on effect. I also believe the North East is very well placed to take advantage of sectors such as offshore renewables and port related activities, as detailed under the Enterprise Zone Sector Targets. These must also be areas where the North East has real opportunities and advantages over other regions of the country.
However, there is strong competition for the funds available to aid regeneration and it is crucial that we have a joined up approach to avoid losing out to other regions.
One criticism, post One North East, is that we now lack a joined up approach to attracting and being able to respond to inward investment enquiries, although this is a problem for all regions of the country. Another issue is the very real threat that companies will be attracted to Scotland, which operates under different rules in terms of promotion and financial incentives available to ingoing business.
Funds are available to help the North East create new jobs through the £25million Growing Places Fund (GPF) and £30 million of Regional Growth Funds (RGF) available for investment and capital projects.
The Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) is the destination management and marketing agency for Newcastle Gateshead. It aims to promote and position Newcastle Gateshead as a world class tourism destination.
NGI has now taken on the role dealing with inward investment enquiries for the region, and we wait to see how successful it is at this new role.
:: Neil Osborne, Storeys Edward Symmons.