Regardless of some of the regional political uncertainty over ‘Devolution’, there is more to be proud and positive about than at any time that I can remember for many years.
Only a couple of weeks ago we saw the official ground breaking ceremony for Boeing’s investment in our region, and this was hot on the heels of McLaren’s event to mark the start of their phase of major investment and next week sees the official opening of Doncaster’s National College for High Speed Rail. These three developments alone are of major significance to our region, but much more importantly they are about creating opportunities for the people that live in our communities. Their true value will be when the first students leave the National College equipped with new, leading edge skills for the rail industry and when the first apprentices begin working in the Boeing and McLaren’s state of the art facilities.
As well as these high profile developments, there is a lot that is going well for our economy that doesn’t make the headlines. And be under no uncertainty - our economy is growing. Since 2014, when the Local Enterprise Partnership launched its Growth Plan, Sheffield City Region has shown a gain of 37,000 new jobs. When the target to create 70,000 net new jobs in ten years was set in 2014, many thought it too ambitious in the post-recession world and let’s be frank - creating 70,000 new jobs by 2024 was ambitious. However, we have been successful and as a region now approximately 4 years ahead of schedule and for the first time in a generation it is private not public sector jobs growth that is driving our economy. Activity led by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Combined Authority has undoubtedly contributed to this growth by leveraging approximately £318 million of additional private sector investment into our economy.
Additionally, we set an equally ambitious target to grow the private sector and generate 6,000 new start-up businesses by 2024. Recent analysis has shown that our region’s business start rate has not just reached this improved level, but exceeded it massively. In just three years, our regions has already seen 5,670 new business start out of the 6,000 target - and the even better news is that this has continued to rise annually since 2010. Other things that we should be proud and positive about across our city region include the ‘Skills Bank’ – an entirely new way of securing private sector investment in publicly funded skills to get training that makes a measurable difference, the ongoing investment in connectivity – including the opening of the Great Yorkshire Way which has unlocked huge new logistics developments with Amazon and brought five million new passengers within an hour’s drive of Doncaster Sheffield Airport and the ‘Horasis China’ conference in Sheffield this November which will be the first time our region has hosted over 250 academics and potential investors in such a way.
Despite, these positive trends, there is undoubtedly much more to do in order to really deliver ’inclusive growth’. By this we mean that economic growth at all costs can never be good and instead, for the growth in business, new jobs and development and regeneration to be really, truly successful it must touch the broadest possible range of our communities and residents.
These new job opportunities need to be available to everyone in our region from Wybourne to Wentworth. The impact of Boeing’s investment needs to mean increased prosperity to the residents from Darnall and Denaby and the opportunities for new skills presented by the opening of the National College for High Speed Rail need to be accessible to residents from Thorne to Thorpe Hesley. Clearly we need to make major improvements in order to achieve this, but as our economy is undoubtedly growing we have made a fantastic start.
If anybody tries to be negative about Sheffield and the surrounding region’s economic prospects, don’t accept it … we are in good shape and are set to do even better.