Positive thinking

Moving to a new city, town or village can be hugely exciting, but the first few weeks and months can be crucial in determining your quality of life for years to come.

Moving to a new city, town or village can be hugely exciting, but the first few weeks and months can be crucial in determining your quality of life for years to come. Choosing a house, schools, doctor, dentist, mode of travel to work and leisure activities are major decisions.

Finding new friends, babysitters, a job for the partner will also be high on the "to do" list and lower down the hierarchy of needs will be finding good shops, places to eat and a suitable hairdresser.

I'd like to think that the North-East could put out a collective welcome to all recruits and especially those who have moved here from other countries who may be adapting to a new language and culture.

We are fortunate at the moment to be attracting increasing numbers of people from a diverse range of countries.

Our student population is increasingly from the Far East, and there is a healthy influx of skilled workers from the likes of Poland and the European accession countries. Making people welcome is critical to how we are perceived as a region, but I wonder whether there is more we could do to make the first few months easier for these new recruits.

At NewcastleGateshead Initiative we have been organising induction evenings for new employees of companies in the region and have just produced a new publication to help promote relocation to the area. Newcastle City Council recently organised an international day for new students and more than 500 people signed up.

These events are hugely popular because a key challenge when you move is finding new friends, networks and communities of interest.

One of our greatest assets in Tyne and Wear is the Metro.

Wouldn't it be great if we could fix it to give every family arriving here a free Metro pass for a month?

It would be a clever marketing ploy for the area and would help form habits of sustainable transport which would hopefully continue into the future.

In fact, how about the concept of a welcome bag for the region?

You get discounts in shops, taster sessions at leisure centres, offers in restaurants and helpful information about the area. It could be a commercial product. Maybe ncjMedia could look at giving new recruits free membership of The Journal online for a month and introductory access to the Culture Club to help people get to know the fantastic attractions of the area.

Tourism is important to our local economy whether it be day visitors, city breakers or week long tourers.

It is worth £ 3.6bn to the regional economy and One NorthEast is right to invest in its promotion.

However, I don't believe we invest enough in attracting visitors to stay here for life or in getting graduates to stay and return to the city where they study.

Sunderland City Council's marketing has focused on making people aware of the liveability of the city: "Everything you need by the sea."

We have a lot to offer in terms of the choice of housing, the range of employment, the quality of life and other positive attributes of the area and we all need to play a part in selling the region.

A huge benefit of relocating here is the shorter travel to work times. We have congestion but nothing compared to London, Birmingham or Manchester.

The debate has started on congestion charging and we will need to keep ahead of the game if we are to retain this positive selling point.

* Andrew Dixon is chief executive of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative


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