Yorkshire will be central to Northern Powerhouse success
By James Newman, Chairman of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership
I am proud to count myself among the 5.3 million people who call Yorkshire home. Sheffield City Region is a key part of the largest region in the UK and I believe that the four Yorkshire LEPs must work together to ensure that our great region delivers on its potential.
People in Yorkshire are famously proud of their home county. Our area embodies beautiful countryside and great people and, not least, great opportunities. It is little wonder that tourism is such big business here with over 130 million people making day-trips to Yorkshire every year. Tourism in Yorkshire is reported to be worth over £7bn.
When I met with my fellow Yorkshire LEP chairs a short while ago we were keen to discuss the benefits of being able to watch the Tour de Yorkshire in our own City Regions, and each of us seemed certain that our City Region would offer the best Yorkshire experience! Of course, we have local rivalries, but none of us forget our shared pride when we reviewed the images from across Yorkshire as 3.3 million people lined the route of the Tour de France in 2014.
I believe that what is unique about Yorkshire is that local rivalries co-exist alongside a shared, and very real, commitment to working together to achieve sustainable economic growth. Together, the four City Regions that make up Yorkshire have a common vision of a stronger and faster growing private sector, which will create more, and better, jobs for local people.
We are also united in our optimism about Yorkshire’s economic future – a view supported by recently released government information showing that Yorkshire is experiencing the fastest productivity growth in the UK. Unemployment rates across our region are falling faster than the UK average, and private sector job growth cannot be matched by any region outside of London. People in work are seeing their average earnings increase faster than the UK average.
Leaders in LEPs across Yorkshire recognise the importance of improving connectivity across our City Regions. Better roads, rail, tram and bus connections will accelerate economic growth across Yorkshire and beyond. The high speed rail connection between Leeds and Sheffield City Regions will transform our economies like never before. As part of One North, the Yorkshire LEPs are working with Manchester to enhance links between our City Regions across the Pennines. In Sheffield City Region, we have taken the first steps toward a road tunnel which will better connect our economy with Manchester.
The Yorkshire LEPs are all focused on accelerating activities that will strengthen our diverse and interconnected private sector. Attracting new global investment to our area is a crucial part of our strategy. This year Sheffield City Region and Leeds City Region will join forces at MIPIM 2015 where we will show overseas investors how thousands of businesses are already benefiting from being located in the heart of the Northern Powerhouse. We will also be telling them about our strategy to improve connectivity between our City Regions. In Sheffield City Region, local business leaders are throwing their weight behind our ‘ontrack4hs2’ campaign, which highlights the huge opportunities that will come from HS2 for businesses.
Yorkshire’s twelve higher education institutions are among the very best in the world and, significantly, collaboration between them is now commonplace. There are hundreds of examples of knowledge sharing taking place every day between universities and businesses, which are further enhancing Yorkshire’s competitiveness. Our universities account for nearly ten per cent of all graduates and attract 210,000 students to Yorkshire each year. They work with over 3,000 companies every year on research contracts which are helping our businesses to compete in an increasingly knowledge-driven global economy. Sheffield City Region is home to two, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. Leeds and Sheffield City Regions were recently confirmed as centres of the new Royce Institute for Advanced Materials.
Yorkshire leaders are united in their belief that local areas in England need to take control of the powers over their economic futures. The Sheffield City Region struck a deal with Government to increase our influence over how transport, skills, business support and housing funds are spent. Our deal is helping to pave the way for a similar deal for Leeds City Region. These deals, together with our shared working will help us take a large step forward towards achieving our plans to grow our various economies and ensure that Yorkshire plays its proper role at the core of the Northern Powerhouse.