The North West of England has stood on the precipice of great revolution and change before. In the 18th century, the cities and towns of this region grabbed the opportunity to become world leaders in industrialisation and technology; so much so that Manchester was the very first industrialised city in the world. The extent of the vision and drive those pioneering this new way of working can scarcely be imagined now. Today, the North West is again poised for transformation. The relics of the industrial revolution remain as indelible reminders of what was, but now the question is, what is next.
With Brexit remaining a stubborn distractor from economic progress, the North West, rather like the North East and the Midlands are starting to realise that to wait for Westminster to put their needs first is a huge mistake and that what is needed is a large dose of self-reliance. To this end, it is perfectly conceivable that northern the regions will be successful in their bid to secure greater levels of devolution as power is ceded back from Brussels to the UK. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, told the Financial Times earlier this year, “It [devolution] is the best answer to Brexit. The time has come to free up places like Greater Manchester to chart our own path and our own way of responding to the uncertainty it brings”.
In this article, we will look at the future for businesses and innovation in the North West, in particular the existing initiatives that are already steering a new path for the region, evidence of recent success, and the potential opportunities that are there for the taking in the next decade.
The Northern Powerhouse – time for a reboot?
The idea of the Northern Powerhouse has been around for several years since it was proposed by George Osborne in 2014, but many would be forgiven for being rather confused as to whether it still exists, or whether it even got off the ground at all. The Northern Powerhouse was initially conceived as a way to shift at least some of the economic power away from London, by combining the resources and of the main northern England cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, thereby achieving a nationwide balance. By upgrading transport links and infrastructure, and evolving a new industrial and economic strategy, it was believed this new regional initiative could allow the north to take on the world. There is little doubt that progress has not been as robust as intended. The train system in the North West is widely agreed to be in need of desperate investment. With the future of HS2 as ever in the balance, many hope the government see sense and switch to investing the expected £56m the high-speed rail line will cost into upgrading the regional transport networks.
The Northern Powerhouse, nevertheless, is still very much alive. In February 2019, business leaders, top academics, mayors, and government representatives will be hosting the New Statesman Northern Powerhouse Conference, aimed at revisiting progress on evolution, investment in northern business and infrastructure, transport, education, productivity. This conference follows the Convention of the North which happened in September 2018, which also sought to bring the Powerhouse back to reality.
The Northern Powerhouse has already made progress, including the development of:
- The National Graphene Institute (NGI)
- The Henry Royce Institute – national centre for research and innovation of advanced materials
- Creation of the N8 Research Partnership – A collaboration of the 8 most research-intensive universities in the North of England: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and York.
- A network of 17 business enterprise zones including a number of smart data and technology business incubators across the North.
According to the UK Powerhouse report published in November 2018, with the backdrop of Brexit, northern cities, including Liverpool, Manchester, and Preston are in a strong position by virtue of being economically dynamic and diverse.
Other positive signs for businesses in the North West
There are many other reasons to be extremely buoyant regarding business in the North West of England:
- Manchester was named as one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities by Deloitte in 2018.
- Manchester has the highest employment rates alongside Oxford and Leeds and is expected to have the second fastest growing rate of employment in Q2 2019.
- Stockport has the fastest growing economy out of the Powerhouse cities in the North West.
- Bruntwood SciTech (a joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General) say they made the largest investment in science and technology property assets in Europe in 2018 – much of which is in the North West. The company plan to grow their assets from around 1.3m sq ft to over 6.2m sq ft over the next 10 years, increasing the value of its property portfolio to around £1.8bn, creating 20,000 jobs in the North West, Birmingham, and Leeds.
- Global science solutions provider Dow (a large US business) are moving their UK and Europe HQ to Cheadle Royal Business Park in Stockport and will be leasing 26,000 sq ft of the new £175m business park being developed by Muse.
- Broadband provider TalkTalk is moving its head office from London to Manchester in 2019, and cereals giant Kelloggs moved its UK and Ireland HQ Salford in earlier in 2018.
This list only represents a small sample of the signs of success emerging from the North West economy. The key for many business leaders now is how to capitalise on this through 2019 and beyond.
Capitalising on the opportunities in the North West
There is little doubt that for new and innovative businesses, investment in the North West is a smart move. Not only is the region renowned for its ability to transform itself and be extremely outward looking, but there also appears to be a real shift in the centre of gravity of commerce from London and the South towards the North. Not least because it is vastly affordable in comparison to the South, the number of high-profile universities and research establishments provides a ready source of expertise, and it is centrally located for the whole of the UK. But to make the necessary investment in the North West, business leaders want to know how they can make a success of their decision to set up shop in the North West, and ultimately build a robust and loyal client base.
In our view, a move to the North West means both employees and clients benefit. For employees, the cost of living means they will have opportunities not available to them in the South of England, including the ability to own their own home. An improved work-life balance means they will come to work with more energy and passion for their work, and as a result, productivity is maximised, clients are happier, and those staff are retained for longer, therefore, keeping their skills and knowledge within the organisation.
And what is good of staff is good for your clients. Not only will company representatives, including sales, account management, and support be centrally located for the whole of the UK, enabling more regular face-to-face engagement, but because your staff are more engaged and more likely to be knowledgeable about the products and/or services you provide (due to improved employee retention), the customer experience will improve.
If you are a business leader already in, or thinking of relocating to Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, or anywhere else in the North West of England, it is vital to develop a sales and marketing strategy to ensure robust business success. At Reach Revenue, we have helped many businesses located in the North West to achieve sales success. Let us show you how.
Reach Revenue works with business owners, leaders and investors to develop high performing sales and marketing teams aligned to the strategic objectives of their business. To find out how we can help you, please call 0203 858 8030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org