Mobilisation of the North’s great ‘army’ of SMEs is central to the region’s future economic success, a major conference on the Northern Powerhouse was told.
The rallying call came from Richard Gregory, chairman of the Yorkshire Bank, in a keynote speech before a top level discussion on delivering and financing the powerhouse project.
He told his audience at the Northern Powerhouse International Conference and Exhibition in Manchester, that there was increased confidence in the region, with record levels of office development in centres like Manchester and Leeds. But he stressed the North still needed to create more start-ups.
Mr Gregory said: “We need more high growth business.” The same session heard of the launch of a new Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund in Manchester tomorrow that will give SMEs across the region access to £400million.
It also heard of the opportunity that more investment in the North’s digital infrastructure could bring to its economic prosperity, allowing it to overcome some of the physical infrastructure challenges it faces.
Mr Gregory said the region also needed to attract more companies that wanted to get involved with ‘North-shoring’ and greater levels of international inward investment.
And he said that if the powerhouse project was to be judged a success it needed to deliver, not just in the region’s major cities but across its towns and more rural areas.
He told his audience the North needed to speak with “more confidence” and show that it supported ambition and could deliver.
Keith Morgan, CEO of the British Business Bank, said the new investment fund was an example of tangible collaboration across the Northern Powerhouse and had brought 10 of its Local Enterprise Partnerships together.
He added: “We need to see that level of collaboration amongst all pillars of the Northern Powerhouse.”
Harry Catherall, chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said that there were towns across Lancashire with regeneration plans that needed investors and banks to partner them.