March 31, 2020
These are unprecedented times for us all, so it’s important to remember the positives and the incredible spirit and attitude that made the North East what it is today – the place to do business.
The North East has historically been an important industrial region in the UK and a key gateway to Europe with its strong import and export heritage. This vibrant business community has evolved over the last couple of decades, especially with the rise of the digital and fintech sectors. The region also plays host to some of the best universities in the country providing access to a highly skilled workforce.
The region has the right people with the right skills and therefore continues to attract a balanced level of investment. In fact, according to the EY and Centre for Town’s most recent report looking at foreign direct investment (FDI), the North East bucks the UK trend and is a great example of a region where the core city successfully dovetails with medium and smaller towns to generate a more balanced distribution of FDI, due to the economic importance of the manufacturing sector.
While the report also highlights a reduction of FDI projects into cities like Newcastle, with the lack of high-profile policy initiatives given as a contributing factor, EY’s latest Regional Economic Forecast predicts an improvement in economic growth of up to 70 per cent across the region over the next three years. These projections were forecast before the spread of the coronavirus, which is likely to have a near term impact, but I’m confident the North East is well-positioned for the future.
EY has always been committed to the North East, so it was only right that we based our national Financial Services business here in
Newcastle, providing a full service offering to clients not just locally but across the UK and beyond. Last year, we also increased our headcount in the region by more than 15 per cent to more than 750 people.
EY is conscious that it benefits from the region’s wealth of skills and so, as part of our commitment to foster new, local talent, our collaboration with Northumbria University sees students working and earning a salary at EY while studying towards a degree qualification. Similarly, our established apprenticeship scheme continues to grow, attracting applicants from as far afield as London and the home counties.
However, while the Government’s focus right now is rightly on pulling together as a nation to get through the immediate challenges, longer- term, more still needs to be done to help rebalance economic growth. It’s not just about ‘levelling-up’ the North/South divide; it’s also about addressing the growing economic disparity between our major cities and towns. Targeted levelling up and increased devolution right across the North are needed to ensure the North East has the power to invest in all its towns and communities. We need a blend of public and private sector investment to spread the wealth right across the region.
As the UK’s relationship with Europe changes, the North East could benefit from some fantastic opportunities, especially for our ports on the east coast, which could become important supply chain hubs, easing the pressure on their established counterparts in the South.
To do this, we first need to improve our regional transport infrastructure, while investing in our digital and technological sectors to ensure we can effectively transit goods through the region and beyond, ensuring that the region’s prosperity is enjoyed by all our towns, not just our major cities.