A fortnight ago Nikken, a precision tools manufacturer in Rotherham, signed a multi-million-pound deal to supply the new Boeing factory located between Sheffield and Rotherham. It is a brilliant demonstration of both the talent our county already has and the benefits of attracting global business. International investment brings new opportunities, new jobs, higher wages and greater prosperity. It is essential to addressing decades of under-investment, regional inequality and low productivity that impacts upon all of us who live in the North of England.
As part of the platform I was elected upon, I promised to fight for a more inclusive form of prosperity. In order to do this I will establish a more vibrant, successful and co-operative economy in South Yorkshire. That means all of our residents playing their part in creating the economy we need as well as benefiting from the proceeds of growth.
Too few people in South Yorkshire have a decent income or get their fair share of our nation’s wealth. The average weekly salary here in South Yorkshire is £60 less than the UK’s average, businesses are not as productive as they could be and we’re exporting skilled people to other parts of the country rather than keeping them here.
We have an antiquated transport system that is chronically short of investment and that doesn’t move the residents or businesses around the region as it should. Journey times and experiences between the urban centres of Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield are simply not acceptable and Doncaster Sheffield Airport isn’t yet connected to regional or national train services. All of this reduces our productivity and acts as a brake on our potential.
And yet, there’s no shortage of talent, no shortage of ideas, and since my election no lack of political will to sort this out. The first step in this process is to get the transport system fit for the 21st century. All the evidence tells us that if you get that right everything else follows.
Last week I submitted an ambitious bid to Government for funding to get us going. If we’re successful – and I’ll be doing everything in my power to make sure we are – we can get moving with projects in the near future. If we get this right then we can secure real change for our communities.
For those Nikken employees in Rotherham, the apprentices and learners at the National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster, the start-up high-growth-potential companies receiving support at Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre and the graduates of the two universities in Sheffield it’ll be further proof that we’re building an economy that works for all.
In order to make this happen I am going to take the lead on creating a global corridor of innovation that sweeps through the heart of the Sheffield City Region – connecting up people, businesses, ideas and innovation. Focused around our skills and specialisms, the Global Innovation Corridor will be a global magnet for people, industry and innovators and a huge contributor to our nation’s prosperity.
It’ll be firmly rooted in the strengths that already exist in the region. We’ll connect up assets such as the National College for High Speed Rail, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre and our urban centres with Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
This international connectivity is crucial. Airports don’t just move people around the world; they are fundamental to the movement of products and the attraction of investment into regions. This week I will open the final piece of the new road providing direct access from the motorway network to the airport. It might prove to be the most important mile of road we’ve built locally in decades.
With this investment and by connecting the airport to local and national train routes, Doncaster Sheffield Airport could handle 25 million passengers and 250,000 tonnes of cargo each year. Our products will once again be known around the world. This will mean supercharging the recent resurgence in well-paid advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs that our future economy will be built upon.
That means better pay, more opportunities closer to home and confidence in who we are and what we’re good at. We owe our people and our businesses the opportunity to fulfil their potential. If we get it right there will be more stories like Nikken, as we build a web of interlinked suppliers locally, regionally, nationally and around the world doing the things we’ve always done best in our region; innovating and making. This is a plan that we can all get behind. Business, national government and local politicians. Let’s get on with it.