Northern Powerhouse

Our CEO, Stephen Knight, recently took part in Insider’s Q&A series on the Northern Powerhouse. If you missed the original write-up, catch up below…

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?

It’s about releasing the potential of the northern economy, to allow it to flourish and contribute more significantly both nationally and internationally. Also, it’s a proposal for the future which recognises the need for investment in the North, to develop an economy which is connected, modern, competitive and thriving – between the North and the South of this country and within the global market.

While it is primarily a term to describe a strategy devised by the government to reduce regional inequality, I consider it as something more – the people of the North have embraced it as a passion and energy to drive their region forward.

Five years have passed since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined. Has enough happened since then?

I sense a real frustration from business owners in the North that the government’s commitment is not matching their expectations in terms of investment needed to advance and reach their potential. Whilst the ‘talk’ and ideas are spot on, true action has yet to fully materialise.

However, what I have seen happen in the last five years is growth in awareness of what the North has to offer. The BBC and Channel 4 are two of many companies which have relocated to the region, resulting in a real shift in attitudes towards the area – and reducing some of the outdated ‘north-south divide’ attitudes.

How is the appointment of metro mayors starting to help the initiative?

The mayors are trying to uphold the commitment to the growth of the Northern Powerhouse on the government’s agenda, which is difficult in this current political climate. What they are fundamental in doing, is helping cities to enhance and progress their own identities.

While we want to connect and unite economies, we need each area to stand independently with its own culture. This will help to attract talented people to live, work and visit the region and give it something exciting to offer prospective investors.

What must the government do to re-energise the Northern Powerhouse?

The government needs to take the strategy back to the ‘grass roots’ and listen to business leaders – of both small and large companies – about what needs to be prioritised and addressed to foster real progress. Additionally, there always needs to be more support – through grants and funds – to start and support small organisations.

Transport, infrastructure and technology should also be boosted to support all firms in the region – too many small towns are isolated and restricted in ways the South isn’t. Finally, the North needs to be put into the spotlight and given more promotion for opportunities from global investors.

What is the single main issue you would like to see dominate the Northern Powerhouse agenda?

There is a lot of focus on transport at the moment – with the discussion of the HS2 – and while improved connections in the North are crucial to developing the Northern Powerhouse, focusing on a single agenda would be a huge loss to what a multi-pronged strategy could offer.

For it to be successful, there needs to be a holistic, all-encompassing approach which works from the bottom up – starting with upskilling workforces with world-leading education facilities and moving on to look at the regeneration of towns, infrastructure, technology and business support.

Is there enough collaboration between towns and cities across the North?

Currently, I would say no. However, I am hoping that as a virtual agency network, Pimento can contribute to greater connectivity between towns and cities in the region – especially within the marketing and business world.

As a 200-strong network of agencies and consultants across the UK – which in turn employs 5,500 people – we’re looking to rapidly expand in the North and further foster a collaborative national identity.

How would the success of the Northern Powerhouse agenda benefit your business?

With more industry moving to the North and plenty of home-grown trade being established, the opportunities for a larger Pimento network will develop.

With a greater skills force, more technological advancements, improved transport infrastructure and thriving towns and cities, talent will flourish and there will be more momentum in the overall business economy.

Pimento will be able to contribute and collaborate on fresh, new ideas and practice, as well as drive stronger business links between all our member agencies across the country. We have secured an excellent base of outstanding northern-based agencies and consultants so far, but are hungry to find new talent across all marketing disciplines over the coming months.

Are you an agency or consultant based up north? Get in touch to find out how you can become a Pimento member.

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