Upon reading the latest report from the ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor which showed the outlook among Yorkshire businesses to be at a five year low I was both disappointed and bemused in equal measure.
The ICEAW survey showed a confidence fell sharply this quarter and that, looking forward to 2017, businesses in the region are anticipating a slightly tougher year ahead.
While I do not doubt the methodology and science behind the data and analysis, I could not help but feel just how little this outlook chimes with with the feedback I am gauging from businesses I speak to.
The uncertainty of how Brexit will impact upon the economy is clearly weighing heavily on bosses, particularly as we count down to when the Government triggers Article 50 in the Spring and we begin to see a clearer picture of how Theresa May and her cabinet intend to negotiate ourselves out of 40 years worth of political and economic union.
But we cannot deny that we are still doing business and that for many of our firms little has changed. While arch Brexiteers will denounce any negative consequences of the Leave vote as bitter scaremongering and ardent Remainers will stop at nothing to find any fault they can with the progress, the majority of people in business see the reality for what it is, an ever-changing landscape that will bring opportunity as well as risk.
So, if I am to believe that confidence levels are falling I wanted to lay out some areas which can help counteract the gloom, and hopefully ensure our economy’s leaders can return to work in the New Year with a spring in their step.
First of all investment. EY this week published research showing one in four overseas firms sampled by its ITEM Club tracker were actively looking to invest in the UK.
The amount of cash invested into Yorkshire and the North of England is increasing. Just one month after Brexit the Sichuan Guodong Construction Group announced a 60-year investment deal with Sheffield worth £1bn, with a five-star hotel among the projects in the pipeline.
In Hull a number of multi-million pound investment deals have been confirmed over the last 12 months, both before and after the vote to Leave. Indeed just two weeks after Brexit, INEOS Oxide confirmed it was to undertake a multimillion pound expansion of its Hull site to increase its production of Ethyl Acetate to 100,000 tonnes a year.
And in Leeds the long-awaited Victoria Gate development has been an unqualified success, with footfall ahead of expectation levels. If consumers are fearing the Brexit blues they have a funny way of showing it.
Second of all the tech sector.
The likes of Sumo, SkyBet and Gaming, Tracsis and The Floow all enjoyed successful years in 2016, as their innovation and cutting edge technologies yielding serious business returns.
In less than two weeks time Hull will enjoy a whole year in the spotlight as the City of Culture, a time frame which will bring the city’s unique offering in front of a potential new audience of millions.
The march of Robin Hood Airport, with ever-improving connectivity can bring an exciting new link to the world, and one that is readily accessible by road and rail.
Any doubts that central Government commitments to schemes like high speed rail and the Northern Powerhouse would be dropped were quickly assuaged.
And, in South Yorkshire, a devolution settlement has been agreed. If the rest of the region can get its act together we will have a real chance at taking control of our own destiny as a region.
Finally, while our economy may not be growing at a rate of knots, it is growing, not contracting. If we continue to talk it down and focus on the negative this will almost certainly change. Perhaps all of our New Year’s resolution should be to view the glass is half full.