THE Deputy Prime Minister has paid tribute to the grit and resolve of Yorkshire’s business leaders and their tenacious ability to seize opportunities in tough times.
Speaking at the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards, Nick Clegg said Yorkshire has an important role to play in the rebalancing of the economy away from debt, financial services and the South East towards manufacturing, exports and prosperity across all regions in the UK.
He told the audience: “It’s great that you are celebrating what is best about Yorkshire and our region, which is resilience, optimism, innovation, inventiveness and even in these very difficult times, absolute bloody-minded Yorkshire gritty determination to see opportunity where others see pessimism and to see growth where other people see a contraction.”
Mr Clegg said the current generation has the economic, social and moral duty to “wipe the slate clean” and deal with its budget deficit, which stands at around 10 per cent of GDP.
He added: “Dealing with the deficit is only the first step in trying to do something which is far bigger still. That is the rebalancing and rewiring of the British economy. That’s where I think Yorkshire comes in. That’s where I think an event like this comes in.
“Because if, as we recover from this extraordinary economic trauma that we have suffered as a nation, we don’t rewire the economy so that private sector prosperity is spread across regions, not just concentrated in the City of London and the South East, if we put all our eggs in one basket, in one particular sector or one particular part of the services industry, but don’t give a new, renewed boost to old traditional industries which actually offer so much hope for the future, notably our outstanding manufacturing and engineering sector, then we will simply be condemning future generations to future implosions and repeating the mistakes of the past.”
Mr Clegg said the Government is supporting the manufacturing sector by investing in apprenticeships, infrastructure and the regional growth fund and is promoting closer links between universities and business and the importance of exports.
Describing the rebalancing as “a big generational shift”, Mr Clegg told the audience: “Everything that you represent here this evening suggests to me that is something we can do together because each and every one of you is pioneering in your own way to make that happen.”
On the eurozone crisis, Mr Clegg said he was encouraged by some signs that European leaders had realised that bigger steps were needed to tackle the issues of sovereign debt and bank recapitalisation.
The Liberal Democrat leader said the European single market should be reformed further to deal with protectionist issues in the energy sector and he called for more liberalisation in the services sector. “We have got to deepen and widen the single market further still,” added Mr Clegg, a former MEP.
After his speech, the Deputy Prime Minister presented awards to the winners of all 11 categories at a glittering ceremony at The Queens Hotel in Leeds.
Kevin Whiteman, the non-executive chairman of Kelda Group Holdings and Yorkshire Water, won the Yorkshire Post Individual Award for Excellence.
The former colliery manager told the audience: “Things are very tough, but my experience is that very often real shocks to business mean that businesses can thrive and even succeed on the back of them.
“If you look back at Yorkshire Water it had a horrendous reputation in the 90s.
“In 2000 we had massive price cuts. We had to make one in four of our people redundant in one year simply to avoid failing our banking covenants.
“At the time it felt like the end of the world.
“Our business today is a stronger, better healthier business because of that pain and shock.
“You just have to get your head down, work hard, keep going because if you survive you will be better for it.”
Jon Culshaw, the comedian, reprised his role as master of ceremonies for the third year running, entertaining the audience with impressions of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, George Bush, Barack Obama and Alan Carr.
Aviva, DLA Piper, Goldman Sachs, PwC and Yorkshire Bank were main sponsors.
The Bradford University School of Management, Drax, O2, TC Harrison JCB and thebigword group were associate sponsors.
Hewlett Construction sponsored the champagne reception.
Innovation of the year, sponsored by Drax plc
Entrepreneur of the year, sponsored by O2
Sarah Longthorn, Wedge Welly
SME manufacturer of the year, sponsored by TC Harrison JCB
Exporter of the year, sponsored by thebigword
Young business of the year, sponsored by Goldman Sachs
Outstanding employer of the year, sponsored by the Bradford University School of Management
Business community award, sponsored by Aviva
Companies with a turnover under £10m, sponsored by Yorkshire Bank
Companies with a turnover between £10m-£50m, sponsored by PwC
Companies with a turnover above £50m, sponsored by DLA Piper