Focus on Lancashire: Time for county to come out of the shadows
The major cities have long taken the spotlight when it comes to matters of the economy and business in the North.
Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool have long dominated the agenda both in the media and on the political scene.
But it should not be forgotten that Lancashire, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, has the second largest economy in the North West.
As well as having the world-famous resort Blackpool the county is also home to the Moor Hall – which was recently named the best restaurant in the country.
As part of a special focus week TheBusinessdesk.com, in partnership with Deloitte, is putting the focus on the county.
A recent report from the Local Enterprise Partnership found that although the economy is one of the strongest in the North West it is failing to maximising its considerable potential.
Lancashire has many assets and strengths particularly in sectors such as aerospace, energy, advanced manufacturing, digital and creative and tourism.
It has a rapidly growing Higher Education/Further Education sector which has recently strengthened links with business by launching incubators, spinoffs, joint research and development, training and technology transfer programmes.
The county is also blessed with good rail, road and air links and an extensive motorway network.
Most important of all a comparatively low-cost base and a high quality of life advantages means it attracts new residents.
Entrepreneurs and high-flyers such as Matthew Riley from The Daisy Group tend to remain in the area and are loyal to the county.
Lancashire is also home to the EG Group which is one of the fastest growing business in the UK.
These advantages are offset by the following weaknesses: economic restructuring and heavy job losses in traditional industries and over reliance in some areas on public sector activity and employment.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the man in charge of driving the Northern Powerhouse forward is a Lancashire MP.
The Northern Powerhouse minister and MP for Darwen and Rossendale recently had his powers increased.
And Jake Berry, a supporter of Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership bid, is not likely to be gong anyplace soon.
He said: “At the heart of the Northern Powerhouse is an unshakeable partnership between business, communities and government.
“We’re investing more into transport in the North than any other Government in history, and with nearly 50% of the North represented by Metro Mayors, a Northern Powerhouse economy worth over £339bn, and now, with an expanded, cross-governmental ministerial position, that partnership is stronger than ever. se.
“We are on the cusp of a new era for the North with our modern Industrial Strategy boosting economic growth, supporting advanced manufacturing and creating the right economic conditions to make the Northern Powerhouse one of the most competitive, business-friendly regions not just in the UK but in the world.”
The man most likely to be the country’s next prime minister has backed the idea of the Northern Powerhouse.
He said: “If we don’t invest in the North, the North will never be as good as it can be.
“So, where some projects may, because areas of the North are a low wage economy, just fall below that really strict value for money scoring, which I support in the Treasury, we need the political vision to say – ‘look, this is more important, this is about transforming people’s lives across the North of England’. You can’t put that in a formula.”
The renewed interest in all things Lancashire has been given impetus by a new man in charge at the Local Enterprise Agency.
Steve Fogg, a senior executive at BAE Systems has been appointed chair of the organisation.
The managing director of corporate shared services and a member of the UK management board at the defence giant, has been appointed with immediate effect.
He takes over from Edwin Booth, who had been in the post since the creation of the LEP. He stepped down at the end of 2018 after a seven-year reign which saw the county secure more than £1bn of investment.
Steve’s career was forged at BAE Systems, from apprentice to engineering, then moving through operations and programme management to his current role.
He also holds various executive and non-executive board membership roles, including Blackpool Pride of Place Partnership, chair of the Fylde Coast Responsible Business Network, member of the Worldskills Advisory Group on Social Mobility, Diversity and Inclusion. He is also a member of the National Apprentice Ambassador network.
He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with a great team from the public and private sector to make a difference for Lancashire and I am honoured to have been selected.
“It’s an exciting time with the public and the private sector coming together to attract investment, grow our economy and bring highly skilled jobs to the economy.”
The LEP is in the process developing a new Local Industrial Strategy, with the focus on “improvement and performance” of Lancashire’s key towns and cities.
It will support all future investment activity and position Lancashire’s key sectors and supply chain strengths and opportunities – driven by productivity, innovation and internationalisation.
The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is holding extensive consultations with stakeholders about the strategy, which Government requires all local enterprise areas to draw up.
Former LEP chair David Taylor said: “We are working on a long-term strategy for Lancashire which will set out our priorities and describe the activity needed to increase productivity and earning power, as well as ensuring inclusive growth.
“The LEP wants to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders – especially the business community – have the chance to have their say on the development of this crucial document, so we have begun an extensive consultation programme.
“We want to hear where they think Lancashire’s economy is strongest and their thoughts about what is holding businesses back from achieving their full commercial potential.”
The Government is expected to sign off on Lancashire’s strategy by March 2020.
The LIS is the local response to the national Industrial Strategy published by Government in 2017.