Manchester boasts to be at the heart of the Northern
Powerhouse, to be the UK's most economically diverse city region, the country's
second largest economy, to have a significant digital presence and is
predicting that the levels of job creation in the city will outpace cities
such as Berlin, Tokyo and Paris by 2020.
At our latest regional
leaders' lunch, held in the city, we asked our guests if they are witnessing
this prosperity first-hand and if so what tangible benefits are they
observing and also is the economic growth reported by Manchester being
emulated across other Northern cities?
If prosperity is reflected by
the level of new build commercial and residential properties then Manchester
is certainly up there. In terms of total high-rise crane count, apart from
London, Manchester has the highest number in the UK and with 14,000
residential units across 48 developments currently under construction it is
recognised as one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.
Wayne Close, Managing Director - BUPA Health Services
kicked off the discussion with a very positive advertisement for any business
considering a move to the north. Even though 70% of BUPA's business is
international they have always had a major presence in Manchester.
Increasingly over the last 10 years it has proven to be easier to recruit, in
particular, compared to their office in Staines. Today they have a state of
the art building in Salford Quays, one of their key global sites, and home to
Will Manchester spawn a radial trickle
effect to benefit other northern towns and cities?
- NED for Fruugo, an online retailer, was born and bred in
Manchester. He commented that as recent as 1995, there were less than 1,000
residents actually in the city centre. Today the trend of city living has
increased to the point where there is almost an imbalance of supply and
demand. Manchester has proven that if people live in the city, then the city
can thrive 24 hours a day.
Alan believes much of the credit must go to
the local council and politicians who were progressive and far sighted in
developing a strategic framework for the city.
Perhaps an interesting
question is whether the success of Manchester will spawn a radial trickle
effect to other northern cities or towns or will it result in greater
infighting and competition for resources and inward investment.
Sue Grindrod - Chair Liverpool Waterfront Business
Partnership is in no doubt that Manchester has got its act together
whilst Liverpool is still working out how the 5 boroughs can work together
under the combined authority. She doesn't believe Liverpool has benefitted
from 'a radial trickle effect'. Liverpool has a personality of its own and
has grown organically with some notable successes such as the Knowledge
Quarter. However, more work is needed to attract sectors such as technology
David Waite, Finance Director for Northern Gas
Networks spoke from a Leeds/Yorkshire perspective, where, compared to
London, there is a lack of investment in infrastructure, including
trans-Pennine links, which could use renewable technologies such as hydrogen.
However, where Manchester has excelled over other northern cities is in its
I would encourage business
leaders to support and get involved in local universities.
Canning - President and Chief Operating Officer Customer Management,
Firstsource Solutions picked up on the benefits of the trickle
effect Northern Ireland has had from foreign inward investments into Dublin.
Today, areas previously with unemployment problems are now recording figures
of high employment. Sean believes in the trickle effect and any investment
into Manchester is likely to benefit other northern towns and cities such as
Blackburn and Preston
As a business that employs 6,500 people across
24 locations in the UK and Ireland, FirstSource Solutions only have 400
people in the North West. Many of his clients in the telecoms, financial
services and utilities sectors struggle to recruit customer management staff
in London or the South East. His response to this is; they should look in the
North West, North East, South Wales and Northern Ireland, which all offer
high calibre people at competitive salary levels.
There was a general
belief from our guests that one of the most significant advantages Manchester
has is its universities. Wayne Close of BUPA was very clear in his view that
the universities infrastructure and population gives Manchester a real edge in
producing talent that can serve a diverse set of skills.
Smith, Marketing Director for N Brown Group, primarily an on-line
fashion retailer, finds they are competing in Manchester against a range of
other digital online retailers such as Shop Direct in Liverpool, Missguided
and the very successful Boohoo.com. The demand for digital talent is
outstripping supply and it is a constant battle to keep good people and to
hold salary levels at a sustainable level.
experience many of the best graduates we find are from the Universities of
Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, not Oxford or Cambridge.
with workplace experience often from sandwich degree courses come to us with
more relevant skills than those perhaps with a Classics degree. It is also
important to retain a sense of vibrancy and our location in the popular
Northern Quarter certainly helps attract young digital talent.
Kathryn Heywood, Senior HR Director for Smith & Nephew
agreed wholeheartedly that Manchester has benefitted from its university hubs.
However, the transport infrastructure connecting it to Leeds and Liverpool
still lets the whole of the North down.
Simon Butterworth Group
Safety Director, Manchester Airports Group suggested that the
infrastructure created in the 19th century should be replicated today with
digital as well as canals, railways and road infrastructure being at its
core. For the Northern Powerhouse to work, connectivity is essential.
The growth and activity at Manchester Airport is very apparent to those
living and working in the north, but it is surprising how the strategic
importance of the airport and the significant competitive advantage it
delivers for the region is overlooked by London based politicians. This needs
to be addressed.
Over the recent years there has been a positive move
northwards by the media sector, with BBC and TalkTalk now firmly established
in Manchester. On-line retailers such as N Brown, Boohoo.com, Missguided and
Shop Direct have all originated from the North West. Their respective needs
and consequent development of talent in digital and technology has played to
the strengths of the local universities (in particular Manchester, Manchester
Metropolitan and Salford). The graduates of these universities would seem to
be very attractive to employers. A technology hub has been created which is
self-perpetuating. It is vital local and central government recognise this and
continue to invest in infrastructure, such as residential homes and transport
The success of the North West is founded on
infrastructure developed in the 19th century.
Following our event The
Northern Powerhouse has celebrated its 5th birthday since conception on 23rd
June 2014, at Manchester's Science and Industry Museum, where, the then
Chancellor, George Osborne declared government would “make the cities of the
North a powerhouse for our economy again.”
However, many in the northern
cities still feel that London and the South-East remain at the front of the
queue for transport investment and policy. Which was further endorsed recently
when the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham called for “the North to be
at the front of the queue for the next 25 years”, if there is any chance it
will be able to contend with the South in terms of transport infrastructure.
Citing that Westminster seems unable to accept that the North is worthy of
reaping the benefits of both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Perhaps it is
therefore a case that the Northern Powerhouse isn't yet a “story of success”,
but more a work in, very slow, progress!