Putting ambition into action
By Roger Marsh, LEP Chair
If 2014 was the year when we as a LEP and as a City Region set out our ambition for extraordinary growth, 2015 will be the year when we begin putting that ambition into action.
We start the New Year with profound optimism, buoyed by the confidence that we finally have the pounds and the powers to deliver real economic impact and put the Leeds City Region on course to become a net contributor to national growth, rather than a net taker.
New projects, programmes and developments will launch this year that will enable businesses to achieve their full growth potential, unlocking millions of pounds of economic growth and creating more, better quality jobs for local residents.
SMEs make up 99% of the Leeds City Region’s business community, so supporting small businesses with big ambitions for growth is our number one priority. Later this year we will launch a new service to help SMEs navigate the complex business finance and support landscape and get the funding or expertise they need to grow when they need it. Often what businesses need to unlock their growth potential is investment, and we’re delighted that from April we will have a further £18m to invest in small businesses over the next three years, enabling them to realise their growth ambitions and create thousands more jobs for local people. This new investment will build on the successful funding programmes that have already supported over 300 businesses across the whole Leeds City Region and set to create 3,000 jobs with 1,000 already in post.
Helping businesses develop a skilled and flexible workforce is another core component of our plan for sustained good growth. This is why we are working with employers to help them access the training their business needs to succeed, and create good quality jobs and apprenticeships in industries that offer the best prospects for growth. We are also investing in our further education colleges, equipping them with the infrastructure they need to deliver world-class learning and career opportunities and develop a talented workforce that attracts yet more jobs and investment to the region.
Energy is already big business in the Leeds City Region with companies in our region generating more than one-sixth of UK power. Our plan is to build on these assets and develop the City Region as the go-to place for investment and innovation in the bio-economy, working closely with the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP and at the Bio-Renewables Development Centre in York. We are also acutely aware the long term increase in energy bills for businesses and households, and have already made progress this year on delivering lower cost local energy by agreeing six district heating projects with the potential to deliver heat to over 1,200 businesses and realise an annual income of over £36 million. We are currently consulting with small businesses on our planned resource efficiency funding programme, which will help them cut costs and boost productivity.
Our final priority is delivering the infrastructure for growth. Businesses and residents will begin seeing the benefits of the new £1bn West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund this year as key projects such as York northern outer ring road enhancements and Wakefield Eastern Relief Road start on site. Overall, the transport fund is set to create up to 20,000 extra jobs by 2030. Alongside this significant transport investment, a number of housing and development sites are on track to break ground this year including brownfield sites in East Leeds. This is in addition to the new investment opportunities underway on our Enterprise Zone – regarded as a major investment opportunity nationally. We will also continue to support the great work of our digital programmes across the City Region, getting more people online and benefitting from superfast broadband, learning new skills that can help them explore opportunities for growth.
When I think back at 2014, I am hugely impressed by the dedication and hard work of business owners across the City Region and the critical role they play in helping us create a better economic future. That is why I am more passionate than ever about the work the LEP will be doing this year to help these companies go even further and faster in achieving their goals. We have the ambition and confidence in what we can achieve together, but now it is time for action paving the way for yet another monumental year for the LEP and Leeds City Region.
New projects starting in 2015
- LEP business support service – to help SMEs navigate the complex business finance and support landscape and get the funding or expertise they need to grow when they need it
- LEP skills – investment for employers to access the training their business needs to succeed, and create good quality jobs and apprenticeships in industries that offer the best prospects for growth
- LEP resource efficiency offer – continued investment in energy efficiency projects across the City Region
- LEP investment in infrastructure - investment in housing, transport and digital infrastructure creating new jobs and opportunities for businesses and residents