Published by kind permission of North East Times
Developing Consensus, the regional private/public sector group states that our region must have a sufficiently funded inward investment team to represent the North East.
If we are to compete effectively with other parts of the UK, let alone European and global competitors, we must strive to maintain some form of competitive advantage in an increasingly uncertain and hostile environment. This requires the unbridled support of both the public and private sectors.
The region suffers from a lack of long-term commitment from the funding partners, including the private sector, to create a regional ‘Super Hub’ to focus specifically on attracting new inward investment.
We currently have seven individual local authority initiatives, working alongside our single regional team, Invest North East England, operat- ing with an inadequate budget and commitment. This is, at best, confusing and lacks impact.
In the last five years, just 15 per cent of new jobs created have been a result of new inward investment. To succeed, we need new jobs from new companies not just to generate growth across the regional economy but to act as a much-needed cushion in the event of Brexit negativity.
We face a crossroads as the North of Tyne Combined Authority gathers pace. A single, well-funded, effective and outward looking team to represent us is vital in the search and attrac- tion process for new inward investment.
This must either be through a strengthening of resource and commitment from all to the existing regional initiative or, if this cannot be achieved, a ‘coming together’ of as many of the individual local authority initiatives.
Either could be modelled on many of the prin- ciples adopted by the successful 1980s Northern Development Company, which was well regarded across the region.
Key account management and supporting the growth of existing businesses, essentially retention and growth, remains critically important and best dealt with at local authority level, with pan-regional sector specialism being drawn upon.
In contrast, attracting new inward investment is at its most effective when a region is promoted as one.
All seven local authorities in the region have proactive key account management and inward investment systems. Greater coordination of the latter, and collaboration in terms of attracting inward investment is essential.
Developing Consensus supports the creation of a ‘truly public and private sector’ inward investment operation representing the region with representatives of each contributing local authority, together with a similar number of private sector representatives and a ‘prominent chairperson’ from the public or private sectors along with a range of ambassadors drawn from both sectors.
The focus of the operation would be the attraction of new inward investment operating on an annual budget of a minimum of £1 million per annum for a minimum three-year term, coming from the public and private sectors. This would eradicate duplication and confusion.
There would be significant involvement and support from representative groups across the region, and the representative local authorities would be strengthened with additional private sector contributions through financial, ‘in kind’ support and secondments to develop business development skills in specialist sectors and geographical areas.
A high performing regional body would allow for a more proactive approach to attracting in- ward investment, potentially securing representation in key target markets across the globe.
Much time has been lost in the devolution de- bate over the last three to five years. We cannot afford to procrastinate a moment longer.
Author: Adam Serfontein, The Hanro Group. Other working group members are Lesley Fairclough (Ward Hadaway), Chris Fraser, (China Euro Associates), John Rutherford (John Rutherford Consulting) and Mark Thompson (Ryder).