Good Growth in Distinctive Places

Good for the planet, good for people and good for business.

It seems fitting, in the week that the North’s media have joined forces for the Power Up North campaign, to discuss the LEP’s work to boost productivity power in our region. The media campaign asks for an Industrial Strategy for the North. We are currently developing our Local Industrial Strategy which will tackle the productivity challenge, working closely with colleagues in Leeds City Region to make the most of the enormous shared opportunities across the whole of York, North and West Yorkshire.

A key lesson from our Strategic Economic Plan, which has directed funding and interventions for the last five years, is that there is no one size fits all response for economic growth. In tackling the productivity challenge, what works for a large urban centre, will be different to what works across a large rural area such as ours. The future has to be place based, and if we want to power up the north we have to get inside the distinctive places that make up a large geography. Place is key.

Government guidance stresses the importance of places and local communities in co-designing Local Industrial Strategies that will direct future funding and regeneration. Our approach as a LEP has always been to work at a local level, generating strong partnerships, and understanding from the ground up how places truly work for people and businesses. Putting people at the heart of places invigorates how they’re defined, moving beyond administrative boundaries, to identifying the asset groups and connectivity that enables growth. Assets can mean infrastructure, manufacturing bases, service centres and landscapes, but must also include people and the opportunity for good lives.

North & West Yorkshire pulls serious weight nationally, with a combined economy of £72bn and a population of 3.1 million people. It’s the size of a small country and our resilience and potential is borne out in the diversity of our business base. The Local Industrial Strategy requires a sharp focus on raising productivity. But with no single sector dominating, and such a sprawling and diverse geography, we need to ensure that our approach benefits the people living here, wherever they live – be that in an urban centre, a rural town, an isolated farm or a seasonal tourist town on the coast.

In its simplest terms, productivity is about getting more out from what you put in. In a business we look at this in terms of inputs and outputs, but taking into account people and places is much more complicated than a simple ratio of cost of sales against overheads. Crucially, how we think about productivity growth also needs to tackle the very real national and global challenges that we face. Climate change isn’t going away. Cyclical poverty and deprivation needs to be addressed. We’re in a strong position to do this. Our globally recognised innovation assets around agri-tech and bio-economy can be harnessed, alongside innovative approaches to collaboration, such as Grow Yorkshire, where we’re working with partners across our area to deliver new opportunities for our vast food, farming and rural communities.

The national dialogue around towns as left behind places, bears particular significance to our Local Industrial Strategy. Changing consumer behaviours and rise of digital technology has impacted heavily on towns, and we have a large number of distinct towns across our patch. At our Annual Conference on 26th June, Bill Grimsey (The Vanishing High Street), will deliver a keynote to inspire our thinking around place and the changing role of towns in driving forward economic growth.

We have a great asset base and this is a potentially transformative moment. Through our Local Industrial Strategy we have the opportunity to prioritise the needs of people, places and the planet, in a way which delivers real economic growth. The best businesses bring accounting rigour and a sincere desire for positive impact, into the realm of profit and loss. For example Yorkshire Water   seeks to understand how value is created by quantifying it across numerous sources of ‘capital’: human, social, natural, manufactured and financial. Productivity is raised by understanding how these capitals interrelate.

Bringing this thinking to our approach to place, creates a powerful and distinctive offer, one where ambitious, responsible businesses deliver growth through a workforce healthier, happier and consequently more productive workforce. Recognising the economic importance of our natural capital helps us to tackle climate change whilst creating exciting new opportunities.

For our Local Industrial Strategy to truly deliver, it needs to reflect the distinctive places and shared ambitions of our population. Yes, we want power up north, and productivity growth across our patch – but we want that to be growth that is good – good for people, good for places, good for the planet and good for business.

This article was written for The Yorkshire Post by David A. Kerfoot MBE DL, Chair of the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership.

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