THERE is fresh hope that 2013 will lead to the resolution of the regional branding issue that has been of concern in terms of the North East's standing on the global, inward investment stage.
Less that 12 months on since One North East closed its doors as the regional development agency (RDA), there has been considerable dialogue between the various interested bodies that are responsible for attracting inward investment.
Tim Evans, partner in charge at Knight Frank, said: “The best example of this is Nissan that was brought to the region by the Northern Development Co (NDC).
“It is new industries such as this that have been so influential on the property market in particular for warehousing for logistics and distribution uses as a consequence of just-in-time and sequential parts delivery requirements.”
The current inward investment is Hitachi Rail Europe’s (HRE) facility that will start on site in January next year. This is another huge success for the region and it demonstrates that the North East is a competitive location against other parts of the UK, Evans said.
He added: “We have a compelling property offer and the flagship Quorum Business Park has already accommodated 4,000 new jobs with the ability to create up to another 6,000 jobs.
“We have a fantastic property offer compared to other areas and we continue to attract major, new, inward investors.”
But he pointed out that the issue of regional branding is not far below the surface.
“We were One North East, we are now two local enterprise partnerships, one Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, two county councils and a good sprinkling of local authorities,” said Evans.
“The question is this – what best reflects the region, for example in the Far East? Is it about a dozen, fragmented, bodies or one brand that reflects what we have to offer?
“It certainly worked with NDC though HRE’s arrival was much to do with the energy of the developer and County Durham’s Business Durham organisation.”
However, County Durham is not marketed in isolation as the regional offer includes Newcastle International Airport, The Port of Tyne and Teesport, all three facilities out of County Durham.
The quality of life of the region, perhaps an over-used term, nevertheless includes the beaches and castles of Northumberland or the villages of Tyne valley or North Yorkshire, said Evans.
He added: “So the offer is regional and in my view the packaging of the brand should be focused on the regional capital and its immediate environs to give the story of the region as much more plausible population figure.
“After all the drive-time catchment for those working in Newcastle extends in all directions bringing in a much greater population, logically creating a city region brand, very much similar to the Greater Manchester region or Leeds city region and we understand there may also be a ‘Greater Birmingham’ in the offing.
“What is required is a global brand that is recognisable as a good place from where to do business. We are that place, we are the only region in the UK that is a net exporter and we have some considerable strengths.
“An enlarged area under one brand will deliver population figures, demographics and a Gross Domestic Product that very much enhances the inward investment offer.
“There is a good story to tell but best as one volume that speaks for all parts of the region rather than numerous, smaller, volumes that dilute the message.”
Bill Lynn, at Storeys Edward Symmons, agrees that it is vital the region markets itself properly for the benefit of all.
“Effective regional marketing is crucial and the North East faces stiff competition from other regions which seem to have deep pockets and are able to offer incentives to attract inward investment and job creation,” he said.
“One North East did well as the region’s development agency, and its tourism marketing ad campaign Passionate People Passionate Places, was successful and generally popular.”
He said the region’s two LEPs are gaining momentum, but it remains important that the North East is seen as a region, rather than a disparate group of local authorities that are all competing for inward investment.
Lynn said: “We’ve seen examples of high profile occupiers going north of the border to Scotland and Wales, too, can offer considerable incentives.
“To compete effectively, I think it’s essential to market the North East on the basis of what we do, promoting the skill sets we have, and maximising the impact of the employers we’ve been able to attract over the years.
“Nissan is the most important and most well known, and there are other examples. These success stories are our best advertisement and should underpin how we market our region.
“Otherwise, despite all we have to offer, there’s a danger we’ll lose out to other regions.”