As a business owner in Yorkshire I am genuinely excited about the potential of the Northern Powerhouse, indeed it was one of the reasons why I decided to go ahead and set up on my own and base my business in this neck of the woods. Yet despite all the excitement, the statistics, facts, figures and investment I find myself wondering who is going to fuel it?
But first, some fun facts to highlight it's potential:
- The Northern Powerhouse is made up of Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Hull in Yorkshire, Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East and Manchester and Liverpool in the North West.
- If the Northern Powerhouse was a country it would have the 8th largest gross domestic product in Europe, bigger than Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Greece and Ireland. (Eurostat 2014)
- Manufacturing was worth £46 billion in the North in 2014, over a quarter of the UK’s total manufacturing output. (Regional Gross Value Added (Income Approach) 2015, ONS)
- The Northern Powerhouse exported £7.3 billion worth of pharmaceutical products in 2015, accounting for 45% of all medicinal exports attributable to UK regions. (Regional Trade Statistics (Q2 2016), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC))
- With a population of 10.7 million (NOMIS, 2015), the Northern Powerhouse has a larger population than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined
- If the Northern Powerhouse had competed in the Rio Olympics as a separate country, it would have finished 5th in the medals table
So here’s my concern. With all the investment the government is putting in which will, in theory, enable companies to grow in the North, where are we going to find the talent for those businesses? A lot of people, me included, left the North to go University and ultimately found jobs in the Midlands, London or overseas.
Why? If you want to work at the cutting edge of Marketing then, arguably, you need to work in London and similar arguments can be made for Sales, HR and Accounting or Birmingham, Singapore and Sydney.
This of course leads to a ‘brain drain’ from the North and it puts businesses off increasing their operations here. Put another way, would you move your operations to Leeds or Manchester knowing that you are constantly going to struggle to find the right talent to grow your business? But unless there are the jobs then people will continue to move out of the North to find them.
So which comes first, the jobs or the talent?