Making the North a global powerhouse

Jake Berry MP has called for a Northern Big Bang to spark major investment in the region.

Taking to the stage at Invest North, the former Northern Powerhouse Minister hosted an international trade and investment panel, sponsored by global law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, which included the 53rd Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner who now serves as a senior strategic advisor to Squire Patton Boggs focusing on global business development.

Berry and Boehner were also joined by Lakshmi Kaul, UK head and representative of the Confederation of Indian Industry and Katherine Richardson, deputy director UK regions at the Department of International Trade.

The 45 minute session started with Berry highlighting the size of the north’s economy, £333bn, and the region’s proven capabilities in high value manufacturing, education, energy and life sciences.

The focus then moved to the opportunities for the north to trade with the USA, a market which already accounts for £6.3bn worth of exports from the region.

Boehner explained that with the new administration under Biden that he believes “there’s an interest in a UK US trade agreement”. However he cautioned this would take some time, perhaps “a year or two”.

Away from a central UK US trade deal the former senator explained that the real opportunities for the north on a state by state basis, highlighting that states like Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Colorado and Arizona have big economies and “commerce departments looking at putting together relationships between manufacturers in those states with suppliers all over the world”.

In his opinion he believes that northern businesses shouldn’t be blinded by the headlines about “the latest miss cue in the US UK trade deal”. Instead he suggested that they look to these states and where their customers or potential customers might be and start working with state officials, “you’ll likely have far more success especially in the short term.”

At this point Richardson emphasised that the UK and US markets already have a strong trade connection and the the Department for International Trade has people on the ground in market.

“We’ve got trade specialists located throughout the US” she said. Before adding that the Northern Powerhouse team has also employed specific people in places such as Houston and Atlanta that are working to promote northern investment opportunities and bring money into the region.

Discussing the key growth markets she sees in the US, Richardson said: “The number one [opportunity] is in life sciences, and the north is a world leader in that field, I think tech generally and FinTech are areas we’re also exploring.”

Berry highlighted that a challenge for the business community can sometimes be in finding its international markets and emphasised that there is support and advice available from DIT.

Moving continents, the conversation turned to opportunities in the East with Kaul talking about the opportunities provided to the north by its “living bridge connection” to India.

She said: “Its a living bridge of opportunities, of people, of culture and of investment which drives these trade agreements forward.

Kaul added that the term is fairly recent but that similarly to Boehner it is the people link that leads to business opportunities.

“There are about 842 Indian companies in the UK, contributing about £41.2 bn in turnover”, she said, explaining many of these businesses links often start with “people coming to visit people who already live in the UK”.

As the session came to end Berry highlighted that the sponsor, Squire Patton Boggs had “Doing Business in…” guides available which can be accessed at

With the final message coming from an audience member who shared: “The key to being a successful exporter is just to make it happen!”

Invest North is a one-day virtual conference bringing together more than 500 people including business and policy leaders to set the agenda for what comes next in the North.

The event has been curated by and backed by a broad coalition of organisations spanning the public and private sectors, led by EY, Squire Patton Boggs, Influential, and Impact Data Metrics.

Find out more here