Today’s visit to Newcastle by Greg Clark MP, the Business Minister responsible for Decentralisation, marks a major success for the business-led North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Mr Clark is in the city for the official opening of Science Central, but will also take the opportunity to sign a Growth Deal for the region, worth more than £300m to the North East economy.
The initial £289m of capital funding, first revealed last year, plus an additional £40.6m announced at the end of January, will come through the North Eastern LEP and into a total of 29 schemes.
The money will drive major projects across Tyneside, Wearside, County Durham and Northumberland and support infrastructure, skills, innovation and jobs. It is a £300m endorsement of the power of a successful Local Enterprise Partnership and, as a LEP board member and someone who is dedicated to supporting North East businesses, I could not be more proud.
We are seeing a significant drive from business groups to promote the economic potential and successes of the North East.
Earlier this month, in these very pages, Nigel Mills, Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, called for a unique, unified approach to bringing decision makers and individuals of influence to the North East and wow them with what we have.
His ambitions have been supported by other organisations, including the Institute of Directors (IoD) in the North East. I like to think that this Growth Deal shows we are already on the right path to achieving Nigel’s vision, and our successful, business-driven LEP can play a major part in realising this potential.
Today’s visit from a Government Minister with a portfolio for decentralisation is a superb opportunity to start showing off our fantastic region and ensuring we do not slip under the radar when it comes to support on a national level.
One of the key areas supported by the Growth Deal money is infrastructure; in terms of both transport and digital connectivity. Getting our regional infrastructure right is key to continued economic success and growth, so it is fantastic to see some of this money going into our ports, roads and public transport system.
By developing world-class infrastructure, we can achieve our potential to not only build the home grown economy, but to drive inward investment to our region. The value of such business migration is plain for all to see.
One only needs look to Nissan and the 7,000-plus people directly employed by the firm on Wearside, plus thousands more in the supply chain. Further south, in Newton Aycliffe, Hitachi are currently recruiting a 730-strong workforce as they bring train building back to the South West of County Durham.
With the Growth Funding also providing financial support to our centres for science, innovation and learning, this money is supporting the building blocks of a successful economy; one that will not only be good for business, but which will improve lives across the region.
It is all too easy to forget that what is good for business growth is generally good for everyone and, if we can use this money to build our economy, we will create jobs and wealth that runs through the communities within the region.
This is why I maintain my position that future leaders of the North Eastern LEP should be selected by the region’s business community, so that we can continue to drive future economic success and build upon those achievements which are being marked by today’s activities.
Jeremy Middleton is founder of Middleton Enterprises, a £50m investment company based on Tyneside. He is also a board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.