Time to shine on the global stage

02.02.2014

By Roger Marsh
Chair, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

The world’s spotlight will shine on our region this summer, when the first two stages of the Tour de France Grand D�part kick off in Leeds and York. The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is working hard to ensure this global showcase creates a lasting legacy of investment and growth for the region’s businesses.

The immediate economic benefits of hosting the world’s largest annual sporting event are clear. A global TV audience of 3.5 billion will tune in to see riders race through our spectacular scenery, and thousands will flock to the region during the first week in July. They will learn what we already know: that Yorkshire is a tourism destination beyond compare. The boost to the region’s visitor economy alone is expected to be in the tens of millions.

Once the staging has been dismantled however, the bunting packed away and the yellow jersey awarded, how can the region ensure that the business legacy of the Tour is a lasting one? The LEP has some ideas, and is already working with its partners to use this moment in the global spotlight to build the City Region’s international profile.

The Tour won’t just attract cycling enthusiasts; it is also set to be a magnet for business investors. The Grand D�part International Business Festival, in which the LEP is a key partner, will be a unique platform to showcase our vision and ambition on a global stage, and strengthen ties with investors and trade partners. Historically, Yorkshire has lagged the UK’s other key economic centres in attracting inward investment. Now, investment is picking up real pace, bringing jobs, prosperity and confidence with it. Earlier this year the Leeds City Region’s investment pipeline passed the £2.5bn mark, including more than £1bn in retail development alone – more than anywhere else in Europe.

Developments on the Aire Valley Leeds Enterprise Zone – which offers investors a compelling package of financial incentives – alongside commercial sites such as the £260m Broadway scheme in Bradford, £90m Vangarde development in York, and £150m Victoria Gate in Leeds (which will see John Lewis open its largest store outside the capital) are all evidence of the confidence investors have in this region. The LEP is working with Leeds and Partners, UKTI, local authorities and businesses to fuel further confidence and accelerate the pace of development.

Encouraging more home-grown firms to take advantage of the immense opportunities in overseas markets is also central to the LEP’s international ambitions. The region’s recent strong export performance proves that more and more businesses are realising that their products and services have markets, not just in the UK, but worldwide. In 2013 Yorkshire was the only northern region to show export growth, and the pace of growth is well ahead of the UK average.

The LEP is working with partners including UKTI, Enterprise Europe Yorkshire and the region’s chambers of commerce to capitalise on this momentum through its nationally regarded We are International campaign. To date our export network has helped around 300 small and medium-sized enterprises take the first steps towards trading overseas, with support from a network of 40 experienced exporters. Working with Yorkshire Universities, the LEP is also looking to take advantage of an important, yet untapped, international resource – the City Region’s population of 35,000 international students. The Postgraduates for Business programme will link local firms with a suitably qualified international graduate to provide the market intelligence, language and cultural knowledge those firms need to break into target export markets.

The Grand D�part gives us a catalyst to turn our international ambitions into action. It comes at just the right time too, with the LEP poised to take greater control of economic decision-making and new investment on the back of a Local Growth Deal, to be agreed with government in July. This Growth Deal will give the LEP and its core partner, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, powers to go even further in boosting investment and trade – including improving transport links, housing and development infrastructure to get goods to markets quicker, and make the City Region more attractive to investors. This is our region’s time to take its rightful place in the global spotlight – and we intend to make the most of it.

An international City Region

· Globally connected: within an hour’s drive of 7 million people, connected to the West European Economic Corridor by air and sea, and set to benefit from major new investment in rail links, including faster connections to London and Manchester and HS2

· International education links: 8 universities and 14 FE colleges, with a combined international student population of 35,000. 36% of their research is world-class and 10% world-leading

· Global industries: significant strengths in sectors with global growth potential including financial and professional services, intelligent manufacturing, low carbon and environmental industries, creative and digital industries and healthcare and life sciences

· UK’s largest manufacturing centre: with 139,000 manufacturing employees, more than anywhere else in Britain, the City Region is in pole position to benefit from export market growth and trends such as re-shoring.

· Investor confidence: £2.5bn City Region investment and development pipeline, including £1bn in retail development alone – more than anywhere else in Europe

· Export growth: the only northern region to report export growth in 2013; the value of exports rose 7% last year, against a national average of just 1%

· Leadership and partnership: our partnership capacity is fired by a decade of collaboration across the public and private sectors, with significant new powers and funding on the horizon to boost growth and investment

An edited version of this article can be found in Yorkshire Vision.

Photographer: Matthew Radcliffe