Graham Place discusses the Northern Powerhouse

Has enough happened since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined and is there enough collaboration across the region?

What do you think? In 2018, I will lead a number of discussions on the topic and encourage all northern company leaders to take responsibility.

The Northern Powerhouse is a significant initiative about our vision for our amazingly creative and enterprising region, but while it is sometimes easy to see the debate around a Northern Powerhouse centre around single cities and initiatives, it will not drive a real Powerhouse agenda.

There are many barriers between Leeds and Manchester, Manchester and Liverpool, mainly created by the inhabitants who want the benefits but not necessarily the collaboration. Collaboration on key investment and promotional initiatives and healthy competition locally will be more effective.

It was really encouraging to see Manchester and Liverpool work together on MIPIM UK. But from the perspective of a Leeds-based company like mine, what about Leeds? And what about Sheffield and Newcastle? Where are the East-West collaborations? I am hoping to see more of these in 2018.

I mean, really, does an inward investor care if it is looking at Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle or Sheffield? Could collaboration across the region create a strong Northern Powerhouse grouping of all the key cities promoting the whole region nationally and internationally? What an amazing force this would be.

Government support

Regarding how the new government could help re-energise the initiative, if you look at the government website there is a constant stream of papers and initiatives about the Northern Powerhouse and its support and funding for it.

But it’s low profile overall. I think we need to turn this around and get the message into the public arena and raise the profile.

It is not surprising that it has stalled to some extent since there has been so much political upheaval. It needs a new impetus promotionally, but in some ways it is doomed to failure if it is only a political initiative and we wait for help to come.

The north was not built by politics, but by enterprise, and we need to take responsibility to keep it moving, with or without Westminster support.

Now, politically I can’t really see how businesses like ours currently have the can get involved in the more significant regeneration opportunities. So, I really think that there needs to be much more communication into SME companies about the opportunities that exist and how to access them.

Taking responsibility

It’s great to see the appointment of metro mayors and I believe they will have the Northern Powerhouse as their enterprise priority. It gives them something to campaign on. Certainly, Andy Burnham has already said that in order to achieve the housing targets it is ‘critical to ensure an availability of land, a supportive planning regime and policy that encourages and supports’. Investment in homes and enterprise go hand-in-hand and so this is an encouraging sign.

I believe the Northern Powerhouse will raise-all-ships and we will all benefit. But we are not sitting waiting for it to happen. We are out there promoting the North and I would encourage all northern companies to take responsibility and do the same.