Delivering growth for good
In his latest column for The Yorkshire Post, Roger Marsh OBE reflects on the achievements of our Growth Service.
At our LEP Board meeting last month we discussed the great progress our Growth Service has made, having supported over 10,000 businesses across our City Region since it launched in July 2015.
Businesses of all sizes – from start-ups to larger firms looking to locate in our region – can now benefit from a comprehensive package of support to grow and boost productivity.
The Ad:Venture programme, for example – part-funded through our £1 billion Growth Deal – provides support and grant funding to businesses in their first three years of trading, as well as those planning to start a business.
To date our capital grants programmes have helped over 3,770 companies to grow and create over 8,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the region.
Meanwhile our Growing Places Fund loans have created 835 jobs and 785 new homes and helped revitalise important housing and development sites such as the former Prince of Wales colliery site in Pontefract and Garnetts Wharf in Otley, which has helped bring an historic paper mill and nearby riverside habitats back to life.
Over £16 million of loan funding has been repaid so far, creating an ongoing revenue stream that we can reinvest in other schemes to develop the City Region’s economy.
Our success in attracting Channel 4 to Leeds City Region has placed renewed focus on supporting the development of our fast-growing digital sector, which employs 102,000 people and contributes £6.5 billion to the economy.
Last week AND Digital – one of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies – became the latest digital firm to expand its presence in the region with its announcement of a brand new office in Halifax. This follows the announcement last year that three TV production companies – UKTV, Wise Owl Films and Endemol Shine – are opening offices in the region in the wake of the Channel 4 relocation.
Our #Welcome digital inward investment fund is providing grants to help yet more digital and tech firms base themselves here in the digital capital of the North. Meanwhile our digital skills campaign, Discover Digital – developed in collaboration with more than 20 digital businesses – is connecting people with career opportunities in this exciting industry and helping to strengthen our already significant digital talent pool to support further business growth.
What I’m most proud of however is not just that we’re helping firms in the region grow, but that this business growth is creating a positive impact for the people of our region. We’re not just pledging a commitment to inclusive growth – we’re delivering on it.
Beyond the simple fact that growth creates new opportunities for local people, the LEP has been putting in place measures to help businesses fulfil their social responsibility to the region.
Last year we introduced new criteria into our capital grants programme to incentivise businesses looking for taxpayer investment to commit to repaying this investment through one or more positive actions.
Potential actions include partnering with local schools to inspire the next generation; offering work opportunities to local people with health or disability issues; undertaking an energy audit to find ways of reducing their energy consumption; or identifying opportunities to buy more from local suppliers.
In all cases, support is available from our LEP Growth Service to help businesses fulfil their commitment.
The positive response from the business community has been overwhelming.
Perhaps most encouragingly, since these new inclusive growth criteria were introduced nearly 70% of all jobs set to be created through the investment projects we’ve supported are expected to pay the Real Living Wage. This compares to 58% of jobs created in the 12 months before the new inclusive growth criteria were introduced.
This is one, powerful example of the difference we can make to the people of the region when the public and private sectors work together for mutual benefit.
This collaborative approach will be critical if we are to tackle the challenges – such as lower than average productivity, stalled living standards and stubborn deprivation in some areas – that have held our region’s economy back for too long.
As a LEP, we will continue to support businesses who want to develop their business and help our region thrive. You can access support for your business by visiting the-lep.com/business or by calling our Growth Service team on 0113 3481818.
If the response we’ve had from businesses over the past months is anything to go by, we have a great opportunity not only to develop our region as a profit centre for UK plc rather than a continued cost centre, but also as a place where people are able to prosper and succeed; achieving good growth and delivering good lives.
Our annual meeting will take place in public on 6 June and, as part of the meeting, the LEP Board is inviting business representatives and members of the public to take part in a LEP Question Time.
This interactive Q&A session will give you the opportunity to put questions to the LEP either in person or via social media using #AsktheLEP. More information will be available later this week via the LEP website (the-lep.com) or by following us on Twitter @LeedsCityRegion.
The LEP Question Time is part of our aim to be the most transparent local enterprise partnership in the country.