The chance is ours to take

The chance is ours to take

Graham Robb urges people from across communities, who believe they know how devolved powers and funds can make our region stronger, to sign up to put their ideas forward.

The year 2016 promises to be one in which the North East moves closer to achieving its potential as once again an economic engine room at the heart of growth in the UK, creating jobs and prosperity.

Yes, we have had some knockbacks, the collapse of steelmaking in the Tees Valley arguably the biggest of them all, and we are still at least a year away from securing the additional funding and powers that devolution promises.

However, I believe we start the year in a strong position, with much to build upon and we will achieve more by looking forward than by licking our wounds or sitting and waiting for new funding to be transferred to our region.

While the government’s official Business Population Estimates, released in November, showed an overall reduction in the number of businesses in the North East, the reality of the situation was largely positive.

There were 1,000 more businesses that employ people than a year previously, with the reduction coming from there being significantly fewer non-employing businesses. However, this in itself highlights a problem that must be addressed.

The vast majority of those businesses will have been born of necessity - people becoming self-employed, often as consultants to the very companies and sectors from which they had been made redundant.

However, many have now reverted to the comfort blanket of employment, rather than growing and becoming employers themselves.

More needs to be done to highlight the support available for start-up and scale-up businesses, to stop this trend give new enterprises the best chance of success and growth.

We need more jobs and, unless we have more employers, there is a finite number of positions that can ultimately be created.

The year 2015 also brought progress in the move towards greater devolved resources and powers, with the signing of deals with the government in both the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas.

While there is some disagreement over the semantics of what the North East agreement in particular means, this is a positive move towards a stronger future for our region.

Our local authority leaders need to work with business to find the best ways of delivering this.

As we move into 2016, I would urge people from across our communities, who believe they know how devolved powers and funds can make our region stronger, to sign up to the North East Says Yes campaign and put their ideas forward.

North East Says Yes is all about bringing together the best ideas and proposals on a platform – www.northeastsaysyes.org – for the decision makers of devolution to choose from when it comes to driving our region forward.

Besides chairing the Institute of Directors in the North East, I’m a board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and, every year, the organisation holds two major conferences: Together We Can Take On The World, and Fortune Favours the Brave.

In the North East, we are blessed with a business community where people do support one another, and we are certainly not short of those who have the courage to innovate, create jobs and deliver wealth.

Let’s take the bull by the horns in 2016, be brave, work together and create a stronger North East.

To read more insights and views on the year ahead, take a look at the recently published BQ Yearbook.