A region that’s booming

Published 9th March 2017 at 8:31am

The headlines screamed: ‘McLaren roars in to city’. Then ‘Forgemasters toasts turnaround.’ And days later others shouted: ‘City lands first Boeing factory in Europe’.

Wherever you go across the region at the moment there is a great sense of pleasure and excitement at these achievements, writes Sir Nigel Knowles, Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership). The achievements exploded into the public domain within a few short weeks – but have taken years of hard work and determination to pull off. And now the region is booming.

The achievements are a massive triumph for the partnership between the public and private sectors who worked together to draw first supercar maker McLaren, then aero giant Boeing to the area.

Our close partnership with the University, Sheffield City Council, and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre was fundamental to bringing a global concern such as McLaren here.

And our £12million commitment to the £50million project was critical to ensuring McLaren could get the project off the ground. It’s absolutely fantastic to see jobs coming to the North, but none of this would have been possible without our single-minded approach to ensuring we create jobs and boost economic growth.

Other benefits likely to follow from McLaren’s move include supply chain opportunities, which are also important in the deal which is set to bring ‘Boeing Sheffield’ to the region once the Combined Authority has approved the funding at its March meeting.

Both McLaren and Boeing plan to invest in research and development and subsequently a factory in the region’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District making respectively the chassis for their cars, and actuators – the components that move a plane’s wing flaps. McLaren and Boeing came to the SCR to continue their longstanding research collaboration with The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

Meanwhile Forgemasters has been able, with a grant from the SCR, to go ahead with installing a new milling machine. This will allow the three-dimensional machining of increasingly complicated, ultra-large cast and forged shapes for industries such as civil nuclear power and defence.

Further proof that the region is experiencing a boom came this week as we launched our Labour Market Intelligence Report, which shows that locally we trained more apprentices – 20,000 – in the 2014-15 academic year than the rest of England, except London and the South East.

And we know that activity led by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Combined Authority has contributed 16,000 new jobs to the economy and leveraged approximately £318million of private sector investment.

The ‘let’s get it done’ work ethic in the region harnesses drive and ambition. With everyone pulling together we are building a thriving and successful economy which is helping to attract, retain and develop skills in the region.

So we have a great deal of good news to take to MIPIM Cannes next week (March 13 -17) along with £1billion worth of major projects to tell potential investors about. Some of the largest brownfield developments in the country are in the Chesterfield area – the Peak Resort leisure destination and the Waterside mixed development – and got underway last month (Feb) with the help of funding from our Infrastructure fund.

Our town centres are being revitalised, and our airport is flying high with new routes and record passenger numbers. We are set to build 13,000 homes in the region over the next few years with our new £20million Housing and Property Fund set to help accelerate new schemes. Former collieries and watersides are being sensitively and strategically transformed so that people can enjoy high value jobs and a good quality of life in the region.

Following the news of Boeing’s decision, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, has even predicted that the area could play a crucial role in a new revolution for the UK, centred on science and innovation but working hand in hand with industry.

We won’t rest on our laurels. We know there is a long way to go to ensure the future for our children and our children’s children. But in the meantime, everyone working so hard in this region should pat themselves on the back. And in the words of the song – let the good times roll!

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