Graham Robb: The North East is punching above its weight in the economic recovery

The chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East on why the region has a good story to tell as it showcases its talents

Graham Robb, Senior Partner of Recognition Marketing and PR at The Journal Transport Links Breakfast
Graham Robb, Senior Partner of Recognition Marketing and PR at The Journal Transport Links Breakfast

When we hear about delegations from the North East heading to London the common assumption is that they are going cap in hand, but, more often than not, it is actually to help decision makers and investors set their sights firmly on the region and its many opportunities.

On Wednesday and Thursday a collaboration of local authorities and private sector businesses from the region are doing just that, under the banner of Invest North East England, showcasing the North East and its investment opportunities at major property event, MIPIM UK.

Attracting more than 4,000 delegates, this inaugural UK event is based on the established global MIPIM exhibition, held in Cannes, bringing together professionals from across the British property market including investors, developers, local authorities and occupiers.

It is part of the delegation’s aim to highlight the investment and long-term growth opportunities that exist in the North East and how the region is not only well-prepared, but actively supports ambitious north-shoring employers.

This event represents critical mass in terms of influencers and investors and will allow the North East delegation to prove that this region has opportunities for growth for years to come.

This region certainly has a lot to offer and, in comparison with some larger parts of the country with higher populations, the North East is definitely punching above its weight in the economic recovery.

The Office of National Statistics’ latest Regional Economic Indicators study revealed that the Gross Value Added economic output of the North East has grown by a greater percentage than other areas including the East and West Midlands and Scotland.

When you consider that only 4% of the UK population live in the North East compared with nearly 9% in the West Midlands and 7% in the East Midlands, this is an impressive accomplishment.

The most recent Lloyds Bank Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index lists the North East as the third strongest performing region for August 2014.

I would also suggest that it is this region’s entrepreneurial talent that makes it an attractive and supportive place to do business.

As part of my number crunching for this column, I also came across some figures from the Start Up Loans Company, which, since it launched, has backed 20,000 businesses and lent £100,000,000. Five percent of that money was loaned to start-ups in the North East, which demonstrates that, again based on percentage of population, more entrepreneurial businesses are setting up in this region than in other parts of the country.

So our small, but incredibly innovative and productive region, is performing well and is doing all the right things to prove to companies that north-shoring their operations to the North East is a more than viable option. One of the delegation partners, property consultants Sanderson Weatherall, will showcase to attendees some of the fantastic places to do business in the region.

This week’s MIPIM UK exhibition also provides the North East with the opportunity to demonstrate the close collaborations and innovative partnerships between local authorities and private sector firms.

The progress made by the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships proves that publicly-funded organisations can make a real difference to the economic prosperity of a region.

The delegation at MIPIM UK includes the North East LEP which, along with the North East Combined Authority, made up of the seven councils from County Durham northwards, is working alongside 12 private sector partners representing a genuine display of solidarity between the public sector and business.

Across this region developments are creating employment and offering direct and indirect economic benefits to the North East as a result of productive relationships between the public and private sector. In Durham City and Sunderland, for example, Carillion is working with each of the local authorities to deliver programmes of investment and growth.

Its project at Freeman’s Reach, delivered with North East property business Arlington Real Estate, will help retain around 1,350 jobs in Durham while in Sunderland, alongside its partner Igloo Regeneration, Carillion will breathe new life and investment opportunities into three strategic sites.

These developments, and others, substantiate the message being delivered at MIPIM UK that North East local authorities are keen to engage with innovative companies that can make positive strides in delivering inward investment for this region.

  • Graham Robb is Senior Partner, Recognition PR, and Chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East.

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