UNTHA UK’s MD Marcus Brew was recently interviewed for a Northern Powerhouse feature with media ‘heavyweight’ Business Insider. It’s a hot topic throughout our HQ county of Yorkshire, and beyond, so we were delighted to be able to share some thoughts on the subject. If you missed the write up, you can read his Q&A in full, here…
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?
It is a globally-recognised brand which exists to promote and drive business to our thriving and exciting area, allowing people to benefit from the huge untapped potential of the North.
Five years have passed since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined. Has enough happened since then?
No, sadly not. Although the brand is now becoming increasingly recognised in the UK, speaking with my peers in wider Europe and the rest of the world it is not. The benefits of relocating or starting businesses in the North of England is not known and the way that this translates into value for organisations is very unclear. I believe the B word has created massive apathy both in Government and inward investment, and is stalling the power in the North.
How is the appointment of metro mayors starting to help the initiative?
We are lucky to have five devolved areas that can directly affect the success of the Northern Powerhouse. Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley have been the most vocal of the Mayors in showing how successful they have been in using their budgets to the benefit of their areas, Even so, I do feel that in terms of the Northern Powerhouse they have still struggled in the current political climate to make any serious impact in pushing businesses to invest in the North.
What must the government do to re-energise the Northern Powerhouse?
I am proud and passionate about my Northern roots but unfortunately this alone does not drive business to the area. Businesses need to be confident that their investment is matched with innovative schemes that are targeted for their specific markets. More grants or access to funds to drive investment would be a great place to start, as would a global team of experts who can take the message to business leaders globally. Waiting for companies to come to the North will not happen so these benefits need to be sold to prospective investors.
What is the single main issue you would like to see dominate the Northern Powerhouse agenda?
Regeneration needs to be a focus and not just in terms of infrastructure. Our Universities and other Higher Education establishments need to be better equipped to provide the skills base that a thriving industrial area requires. A vocationally based system above the current apprenticeship schemes would help to create a world class workforce that companies will be happy to employ, consequently increasing wages and benefitting the local economy.
Is there enough collaboration between towns and cities across the North?
It still feels very disjointed with the major devolved areas creating or taking advantage of the best opportunities. This will probably not change as devolution will likely drive more of this type of competition. It is difficult to see how closer collaboration would work when dealing directly with prospective investors. However, I do believe that other areas such as infrastructure and education could bring major changes in shorter timescales, with a more holistic approach.
How would the success of the Northern Powerhouse agenda benefit your business?
A better trained and skilled workforce is always a benefit and more industry types moving into the area could drive more innovative, cross-sector thinking which would be fantastic as we continue to grow.