A look back at 2014: our highlights
We kicked off the year by publishing our strategy for creating jobs and supporting business growth with £338m of EU investment. Over 600 businesses and partners took part in consultation on this strategy and our Strategic Economic Plan.
February saw the launch of our ‘More jobs, better jobs’ partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Leeds City Council. The initiative brings together local employers, authorities and politicians and aims to create more of the better quality jobs that will mean a more prosperous future for local residents.
In March, the Duke of York KG visited Leeds to launch our Apprenticeship Challenge. In a speech to 200 small businesses, the Duke said that businesses can inspire young people by giving them a chance to develop and take pride in a skill, with wider benefits for communities. We also submitted our Strategic Economic Plan to government setting out our ambition to become a net contributor to the national economy, create thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of additional growth.
In April we reached a major milestone in our grant funding programme, supporting 200 companies to put their growth plans into action and creating in excess of 2,000 jobs as a direct result. The achievement was marked by a visit from Deputy Chief Whip, Don Foster MP.
In May, we helped households save money by securing almost £5m of Green Deal Communities funding to deliver energy efficiency schemes across the region. The funding will provide subsidised wall insulation and other energy saving measures and will establish a dozen eco-households across the City Region.
In June, our region received an inward investment boost thanks to a 90% increase in existing Assisted Areas coverage. Business located in Assisted Areas are eligible for more support, including government financial support for large businesses and public support to cover an increased proportion of project costs for small businesses.
There was good news all around in July, when we agreed a momentous £1bn Growth Deal with government that will enable us to create tens of thousands of new jobs and accelerate economic growth across the entire City Region – the largest Deal of any region in the country. More good news came as a partnership bid led by the University of Bradford and endorsed by the LEP, secured £3.8m from government to establish a University Enterprise Zone in digital health innovation in Bradford – one of only four bids to be selected for funding across the UK. We also launched a third round of our loan funding programme, with £6m available for businesses to purchase or upgrade property and equipment or infrastructure projects.
In August, we made major progress on our ambition to become a ‘NEET-free’ City Region, with a record fall in youth unemployment. 70% of young people taking part in the Devolved Youth Contract have made an initial progression into education, employment or training, compared with 39% nationally - proving devolution really works.
In September our Apprenticeship Programme reached a significant milestone, with 1,000 small businesses signing up to take on an apprentice through the programme. We also published our innovation strategy, setting out our plan to have the strongest innovation system in the UK and enable the Leeds City Region to compete globally to attract talent and investment.
In October, construction and engineering work started on two of the key sites in the our Enterprise Zone where 260,000 sq ft of employment space is now in the pipeline, providing a major boost for the City Region’s manufacturing sector and the regional industrial property market.
In November, digital got a boost when we secured an additional £100,000 to support SMEs with building digital skills and received funding for a Digital Catapult Centre in Bradford to provide a physical space for start-ups and small businesses in the creative and technology sectors. We also helped businesses to explore export opportunities at two events during Export Week.
And finally, in December we reflect on a momentous year for the LEP and for businesses in Leeds City Region. From the country’s largest Growth Deal to Huddersfield manufacturer, Reliance Precision, playing a key part in the Rosetta Comet landing, LEP Chair, Roger Marsh, looks back at 2014 – and forward to continuing the momentum in 2015.