“A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.”
So said Marcus Aurelius in his philosophical work Meditations, written circa 180AD.
What was true for the man considered to be the last great emperor of Ancient Rome could be argued as being true for modern day Yorkshire.
In the last week we have seen two very great examples of people wishing to measure the region’s worth in ambition.
The first example comes from one of our great engineering facilities, the other from one of our transport hubs which needs a serious sprucing up.
In last weekend’s edition of The Yorkshire Post, I am hoping most of you will have read with interest the views of one of the Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre’s founders.
Professor Sir Keith Ridgway, who until last year was its executive dean, has a new ambition for the scheme, and one not confined to the South Yorkshire area.
The Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre is based in the shadow of the former coking plant at Orgreave in South Yorkshire.
The area was home to well-publicised industrial decay and social unrest during the 1980s during the decline of the mining industry.
So when a group of well-intentioned and visionary people got together and decided that this was the place to create a cutting edge engineering hub that would be able to secure work with the world’s pre-eminent manufacturers they knew they were pitching a hard sell.
The location, once home to slag heaps, was on paper better suited to a logistics hub owing to its positioning.
Certainly such a change of use would have delivered a higher return on investment in the early stages – it was far less of a risk then a public/private partnership to look at developing engineering technologies of the future. However, since opening in 2001, the AMRC has brought hundreds of highly-skilled engineering and scientific jobs to the region.
It carries out world-leading work for some of the biggest corporations on the planet.
In the last few years alone it has tendered for and successfully landed the likes of Boeing and McLaren.
The AMRC stands as one the region’s modern economic success stories and is a great example of cooperation and ambition.
Professor Ridgway wants to see the AMRC model rolled out across the North.
Not into its cities, but rather its towns.
He believes the regenerative effect of combining the powers of great universities of the North can serve to create the advanced hubs in places like Rotherham that need a new industry to take it forward.
In order to achieve this he believes the AMRC will have to become independent of the University of Sheffield and be instead governed collectively by the North’s leading universities.
Such a move will be unpopular with current management but could make the entire organisation one of international renown rather than local respect.
The other big news of course was the plan to demolish the old terminal building at Leeds Bradford Airport and replace it with a new £150m state-of-the-art facility.
Hywel Rees, CEO at the airport, has become the first boss there to put into action what passengers have known for years – namely that the 1960s terminal belongs in a different century and is not fit for purpose in terms of boosting passenger numbers.
Hywel’s plan is to be fully funded by LBA parent company, AMP Capital, and will go before planners in the spring.
As the interminable debate over HS2 enters its second decade, I would like to think these two excellent plans can be delivered with a greater sense of alacrity.
They both show an ambition steeped in intellectual rigour.
The same could not be said for Auirelius’s son Commodus. A megalomanic, he undid his father’s achievements and fought fake battles as a gladiator ensuring he never lost before being eventually strangled in his bathtub.
However, the words and actions of his father are remembered 2,000 years later. Some legacy.