Mark Casci: A year of challenge but success for Yorkshire’s economy

Another good year for Yorkshire

And so I sit down in front of a roaring fire to pen my final Business View column of 2017.

While this year might not have been the never-ending cavalcade of political shocks and celebrity deaths it has nonetheless been a momentous one for Yorkshire and the nation.

From a seemingly unassailable political lead, Prime Minister Theresa May somehow managed to throw away the Conservative majority in the House of Commons in ill-considered and disastrously handled election campaign, leaving her Government propped up by the DUP and the very antithesis of strong and stable.

The economy, while some considerable distance from the free-falling collapse predicted ahead of the EU referendum, is sluggish and failing to keep the pace with other major nations.

By contrast the FTSE 100 and 250, the former in particular, have had a very good year, although I know serious concerns abound regarding the sustainability of such high Stock Market values, both at home and in the United States.

In our great county there was much to be proud of.

Hull has delivered in spades in its year as British City of Culture, bringing in turn economic regeneration and a renewed sense of pride to its powerful and diverse business community. It is fair to say Hull is not standing still and has as bright a future as it has had in some time.

Sheffield added another pair of household names to its much-vaunted AMRC in the shape of Boeing and McLaren, creating hundreds of high-skill jobs in the city region.

The connectivity with the city’s universities continues to be an example too. In 2018 it would be good to see the city region engage more with the wider Yorkshire and northern economy.

Leeds remains a financial powerhouse. It has been great to Yorkshire Bank get its mojo back and enjoy its new lease of life as a listed business.

The city’s professional services continue to power businesses in the city, region, nationally and internationally. The South Bank has taken the step from being a concept to a reality.

Tech firms large and small continue to thrive in both Sheffield and Leeds, with Sumo’s news of its successful IPO deal the icing on the cake for this fast-growing and enthralling sector.

Bradford was named the best place in the country to start a business by Barclays bank, something that did not surprise me in the least. I started my career in the city and it remains one of the most entrepreneurial cities I have ever encountered. The city’s council at last has good leadership and is supporting its economy well.

And of course there’s Morrisons, that much-loved Yorkshire brand, which is back to its best. In a year in which its talisman Sir Ken Morrison passed away it has produced a performance which would have made the great old man proud.

Then there’s the rural economy. Long a cause celebre of mine, Yorkshire’s countryside is increasingly home to diverse and growing businesses. Now more than ever it needs support in terms of infrastructure.

One area remains a huge source of frustration in that Yorkshire is falling behind Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool over its continued deadlock on devolution.

A lot of good work has gone on this year I applaud all involved.

The intervention of the Archbishop of York last week was most welcome in that it supported One Yorkshire as the overall endgame, but allows the Sheffield city region deal (still only supported by Sheffield and Rotherham) to happen first to keep the peace with Whitehall.

I was encouraged to hear voices supporting this idea from a devolution summit in Sheffield last week (which curiously did not invite media outside South Yorkshire). Perhaps the tide is turning away from parochialism and short-term political problems towards thinking bigger for our proud and capable region.

Let’s make that a collective resolution for 2017.

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