LEP Column: Take pride in our successes but let’s continue to build

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Growth in the Sheffield City Region (SCR) is now on a firm footing and business investment, productivity and wage growth are on the rise.

Our ambition has produced tangible results and there is real optimism.

How we further develop that sense of optimism will be intricately linked to how we position the SCR to attract the national and international investment which is needed if we are to further grow our economy and ensure we are at the forefront of the development of the narrative around the Northern Powerhouse.

We know the challenges we face. They were identified and set out in the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.

Creating 70,000 new jobs;

Increasing our GVA by £3.1bn; and

Generating 6,000 new start-up businesses.

Other significant factors are that:

We have historically under-invested in the north;

We now find a commitment to the delivery of major infrastructure projects, e.g. HS2 and HS3; and

We must articulate our offering to national and international investors all of whom can choose where in the world they invest.

We are competing and presenting our offering on an international stage and we have seen some recent important evidence of this e.g. the Chinese Premier’s visit to the UK, substantial Chinese investment in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, the frame-work agreement entered into by Sheffield City Council with Sichuan Guodong Construction Co, Korean investment in Rother-ham and US investment in the Peak Resort in Chesterfield.

We must also recognise the need for a collaborative approach between the public and private sectors, engaging with our universities, and creating the right fiscal and financial environment which will be attractive to investors.

We already see signs of this in the context of the recent devolution deals, the development of the Sheffield City Region Investment Fund programme, the development of a housing investment fund, long-term transport funding, and the possibility of 100 per cent of business rate growth retention and working towards full localisation. Investment opportunities come from several main channels:

UKTI

UKTI has responsibility nationally for attracting investment into the UK, working through representatives in 90 locations around the world. We are working hard with UKTI to ensure SCR the region is represented in investment opportunities, and last year we increased leads from them by 100 per cent.

Intermediaries

The region’s inward investment team has developed a strong network of professional location consultants and company advisers: we need to ensure they also understand what the SCR can provide. There is also the ‘human capital’ we have such as those in the business and professional services sectors – we have many international players who are able to act as ambassadors for this region.

Growth of existing company base

Up to 70 per cent of investment into the city region comes from companies already located in the city region. This is delivered by the local authority investment teams who have a very important role to play. Investment cycles can last several years and the collaboration between the SCR investment team and local authority colleagues is building a pipeline of new investment opportunities.

Inward investment is not a standalone package, it is linked with our skills base, our schools and education, and above all it involves creating the right environment for businesses and companies who want to come here to do business with us.

Achieving greater profile for the Sheffield City Region is a critical part of our growth aspiration. Marketing our region for the right audience is at the heart of the ambition for sustained economic resurgence in Sheffield City Region.

Building profile, knowledge and connections are the key elements in how we support our indigenous businesses to grow and attract greater amounts of foreign direct and portfolio investment into our region. We must look to build relationships with key business audiences.

Let us take pride in our successes, they are examples of what can be achieved and they are a platform from which we must look to build and achieve even more success.

Overseas investment is critical

Martin McKervey, partner, Nabarro LLP and Private Sector Board Member of the Sheffield City Region LEP, believes investment into the region by overseas companies is critical.

He believes the region should not be afraid to compete globally, to be ambitious, and to be confident in its ability to attract investors.

With the news this month of the launch by Flybe of eight new routes from Doncaster Sheffield airport into Europe, he is confident the region is punching above its weight.

In the last six months the region has generated 53 inquiries, 15 companies have ‘landed’, 144 jobs have been created.