Chairman's Blog: What does 2016 have in store for Leeds City Region?
In December we published our first impact report, looking back at everything the LEP and our partners have achieved together over the past four years. The Prime Minister praised the “phenomenal success” we’ve delivered from “devolved funding and strong local leadership.” As we start 2016 and look forward, for me the phrase “patience and persistence” is key to delivering on our ambition of making the Leeds City Region an economic net contributor.
I am immensely proud that to date we’ve supported 4,300 businesses and unlocked £491 million private sector investment in our region. But we know that we have only just scratched the surface. Over the coming year, we will take this work to the next level as our £1bn Growth Deal and £300 million of EU-funded programmes progress.
A solid foundation for growth
In terms of supporting businesses, our focus this year is two-fold: helping ambitious local businesses reach their full growth potential, and attracting new investment into the region from national and international firms. We now have a package of support available to help your business grow. Part of this activity is a comprehensive single contact point aimed at small and medium sized businesses looking to find the right support to meet their growth ambitions. Whatever support a business is looking for they can contact our business growth helpline on 0113 3481818 or visit our business support webpages and we will help point them in the right direction.
This year, we will be offering a wider range of support to SMEs, including a further £18m of business grants, funding support for start-ups and new, European-funded programmes to help businesses export and innovate. In the spring, we will launch our £1.2 million resource efficiency fund programme, providing grants and support to help SMEs reduce their energy bills and become more efficient in their operations.
We will also continue to support SMEs to upskill their employees with skills grant funding for training. Businesses like Stage One Creative Services in Tockwith, North Yorkshire, a supplier of creative staging specialising in the design, manufacture, and installation of sophisticated ‘flying’ systems, who were suppliers to the London 2012 Olympics, have benefitted from support so far. 25 members of staff at the staging company have undertaken training that will enhance the skills and expertise of their management teams, improving efficiency levels through better management practice.
21st century infrastructure
Infrastructure remains another core priority. Throughout the year, we will invest further in major infrastructure projects to create the most prosperous environment for our ambitious growing businesses. With funding secured through our Growth Deal we will invest £62 million in new and improved FE facilities this year to ensure our young people have the highest quality learning environment. Our council partners and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will complete a number of housing and infrastructure schemes in Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds that together will unlock over 50,000m sq of new commercial floor space and build 800 new homes to provide our workforce with an even better quality of living. Our Growth Deal investment will also enable us to make significant improvements in the region’s transport network. We continue to invest in our region’s transport network infrastructure through working in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority with schemes including the Wakefield Eastern Relief Road and Aire Valley Park and Ride scheme in Leeds which are all set for completion this year.
Patience and persistence
The challenges that have held back growth in the North of England over many years will not be fixed overnight. However, our combined and focused efforts have the potential to change millions of people’s lives for the better and create a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren. I believe with patience and persistence, we can continue to deliver great impact for our economy, enabling businesses to thrive, creating more and better jobs, and further develop our region as an outstanding place to work and live.
I am exceptionally proud of all that we’ve achieved and developed so far, but for me this is not job done, but job well begun. As I, and many of my LEP Board colleagues, said in our last blog post of the year, 2015 was the year we laid the firm and solid foundations for growth and continued on our transformational journey. 2016 is the year to build on our phenomenal success and deliver impact further and faster.
The evidence supports my belief that it is not “if” but “when” we deliver the transformation.
If you’d like to grow your business in 2016 the LEP can help. Contact our business growth team on 0113 3481818 or email BusinessGrowth@the-lep.com to find out more.