It’s also been a year of change and challenge. The vote for the UK to leave the European Union has had significant ramifications; some of which are known, many of which are still not.
But what cannot be denied is that the outcome of the June 23 referendum has undoubtedly had an impact on market confidence as well as on short and long-term decision-making capabilities of many of Leeds City Region’s business community.
As the glass-half full chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), it has been pleasing to see organisations across the region continue to prosper. I for one am extremely positive about the outlook for 2017 and beyond, as well as the contribution we are making in collaboration with our partners in both the public and private sectors to transform the City Region’s economy by enabling businesses here to grow and develop.
Much hard work was rewarded earlier this month when the West Yorkshire Combined Authority approved a further £64m of local growth funding to deliver new infrastructure schemes across Leeds City Region – part of the largest package of Local Growth Deal investment anywhere in the country.
The funding marks the next phase of an overall £1bn five-year programme of investment that is ultimately expected to create close to 36,000 new jobs and boost the North’s economy to the tune of £3.7bn a year.
It will bring forward essential projects including improvements to the local transport network, state-of-the-art college and university facilities and measures to reduce the risk of flooding in the region.
Away from central funding wins, 2016 has been another positive year in attracting wider investment into the City Region. Building on successful trade missions to key economic powerhouses such as China, key sectors including digital technologies, financial and professional services, healthcare and life sciences and manufacturing are reaping the benefits.
Firms including Covea, HSBC, Hiscox, Provident Financial, PwC, KPMG, Addleshaw Goddard, Squire Patton Boggs, Ward Hadaway, Equifax, Gateley and Shulmans have all reinvested and expanded their operations in Leeds City Region, with Leeds’ position as one of the largest financial services centres and the best legal centre outside London a key factor in these positive commitments.
In the retail space, the opening of the Victoria Gate shopping centre has taken investment in the Leeds City Region in this sector to more than £1bn in just five years, emphasising our position as a world class investment destination.
And with the recent multi-million pound openings of the Broadway scheme in Bradford, Trinity Leeds, Wakefield Trinity Walk, Vangarde Shopping Park in York, and now Victoria Gate we are now, more than ever, not just one of the UK’s leading shopping destinations, but firmly established as one of Europe’s.
Internationally, Leeds City Region continues to be a world class destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). As the EY Attractiveness Survey has found, over the last three years the City Region has grown levels of FDI at a faster rate than the country as a whole. Seeing names such as Perform, one of the world’s leading digital sports content and media companies, expanding in the City Region and creating skilled jobs in the process is extremely satisfying and testament to these findings.
The LEP has also been proud in 2016 to launch our Enterprise Adviser programme. To date, more than 100 senior business leaders from across the City Region have already registered to become advisers, providing strategic employer engagement advice to one third of all schools in the City Region, supporting 3,500 pupils to gain workplace skills and experience.
And we are also excited to launch #techgoals, another campaign focussed at supporting youngsters as they begin to focus an eye on the world of work.
It’s clear that from a standing start the LEP has achieved much.
This is only the tip of the iceberg however, and we intend to keep making loud and clear our strong case for greater government and commercial investment in the region to realise our ultimate goal of being a region that helps drive the national economy through job creation, innovation and investment, and where people can have both a great career and an outstanding quality of life.
A rich digital curriculum
The LEP’s #techgoals campaign aims to enrich the digital curriculum and its delivery, making it relevant to pupils and the future world of work.
Objectives include raising awareness of the digital sector in Leeds City Region, and addressing the gender imbalance in STEM subjects linked to digital careers. Resources include topics on: cyber security; application, game and web design; coding; data analytics; wearable tech; and social media, with resources available to both primary and secondary school teachers.
All of the LEP’s resources are free and easy to use, designed by employers, based on real-life scenarios, and include lesson plans, videos, downloads, software and data sets.