This year the region has been working together to deliver the priorities we agreed in our 2006 Regional Economic Strategy. We’ve made good progress, and you have seen some good examples this morning.
The Northwest is now the 12th largest economy in Europe. It is home to 230,000 firms, 7 million people and has Europe’s biggest concentration of Universities.
Our £106bn economy has grown faster than the England average since 2005, and the number of businesses at a faster rate than the country as a whole.
Our Manufacturing sector is the largest of any English region, and contributes £19bn to our economy.
But the RES sets out our 20 year vision, with long term actions, so there is much more to do.
As we track our performance in delivering the region’s priorities, we must make sure we know what works well. And we must understand how the challenges and opportunities we face are changing.
Today I want to focus on how we can use all of our resources effectively so that our economic growth is sustainable. Firstly, business and the public sector must continue to work together, and build on the strong partnership we have.
We have agreed transport, housing and economic priorities. Each sub-region has a business led partnership that prepares an economic development plan to reflect actual geography and the priorities of local communities.
We have worked with Local Authorities, businesses and others to put in place delivery organisations to meet specific priorities. Regeneration Companies, Vision Boards, and private sector led contracts are used to ensure delivery is fit for place and purpose.
This year has seen a major review by Government of how economic development and regeneration is delivered in England. Iâ€™m pleased to say that Government has recognised the strength of how we do things in this region.
The changes Government recently announced support the Northwest approach of setting clear investment priorities for each sub-region and place.
Government has also supported our view that there should be a single Regional Strategy. This will bring together our goals for Housing, Planning, Transport, the Environment, and the Economy into one strategic approach for the region. It will ensure that all our major places, urban and rural, have a clear set of economic, social and environmental priorities.
We must set a clear Action Plan and everyone will need to play their part in its delivery. This will ensure all public money coming into the region is targeted at our priorities. It will also enable us to lever in as much business investment as possible.
This is particularly important as public sector organisations work to meet the efficiency targets set by Government.
By endorsing a single Regional Strategy Government is challenging the region to build on our success and to set priorities and make tough choices across a wide range of policy areas.
As well as working together in new areas we need to maintain focus on delivering the actions we have already agreed. These are set out in our 2006 RES.
We agreed 122 specific actions, and identified 45 as transformational. We are making good progress on delivery.
For example, most parts of the region now have a clear vision and Masterplan for their future development.
The West Cumbria Masterplan aims to grow the local economy by over £500m in the next 20 years. It sets out plans to build on existing skills and business excellence, together with plans for housing, transport, education and healthcare.
West Cumbria partners have set out the unique contribution the area can make to the UK’s national energy and environmental aims, and how it can transform its own economy in the process. West Cumbria has proved to Government that additional resources for a small number of priorities will prove a good investment.
Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, is now one of two UK sites adopted by Government for large scale scientific investment. Working in partnership with Halton Borough Council, the Research Council and Universities, We have invested £50m to put in place facilities to maximise private sector investment in science and research and support knowledge transfer.
Daresbury is already an internationally competitive centre in Instrumentation, Particle Physics Acceleration and Computational Science. We are working to secure Daresbury as the location for a major fourth generation light source.
As we have heard this morning, Mediacity:uk, with the BBC as anchor tenant, will be the UK’s first purpose built hub for the creative industries. It will provide the environment that the industry needs to evolve, collaborate and compete in the future.
This £400m private sector investment has been brought about by partners working together to deliver new transport links, skills academies, state of the art technical facilities and the working environment required to ensure commercial success. The return for the region is 15,000 new jobs and additional annual economic output of £200m.
The regeneration of Liverpool’s city centre and waterfront continues. Our investment with partners of £30m has levered private sector investment of £150m in the Cruise Liner terminal and Convention centre. Both have already secured strong future business. Other major private sector investment is now in place, including the £900m Grosvenor development.
To ensure continued investment we are simplifying delivery arrangements in Liverpool. Proposals are being developed for a city development company to take forward the next stage of Liverpool’s economic growth.
Alongside a focus on delivery, we must make sure our future economy is sustainable by meeting the challenge of Climate Change and efficient use of resources.
The Northwest was the first region to commit itself to a joint approach to climate change. We have committed to exceeding the Government target of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. We have put in place a clear action plan to ensure we do so.
We recognise that greater efficiency, renewable and secure energy, and energy efficient design will deliver benefits to business as well as contribute to our CO2 and wider sustainability goals. Through our Business Resource Efficiency and Waste programme the region is working to support sustainable procurement in our supply chains and to help businesses understand how to use greener goods and services.
We are using our regional Business Link service to provide a single point of contact to enable firms to access environmental and energy efficient services with the aim of delivering substantial cost savings.
The £30bn global market for energy efficient goods and services also presents opportunities for Northwest businesses. Our Energy and Environmental sectors are a major strength and must be supported as they seek to move into new products and markets.
Exploiting our research excellence in these areas is vital. The Joule Centre, established as a partnership of Northwest Universities, provides an internationally competitive centre for research and
knowledge transfer. It has been developed to ensure we maximise the commercial opportunities of our research strengths.
As I say every year, skills are vital to making the most of our strengths.
This region must ensure that people and businesses have the skills they need to achieve our goals for growth, productivity and adapting to change.
The region is on track to meet its RES target of reducing the number of people without any qualifications. And overall employment levels in the region have risen faster than the UK average since 2000. The Northwest has also increased its number of graduates.
But the economy is still not performing as well as it could. Our existing workforce is ÂŁ14bn less productive than the English average. Increasing skill levels is vital to closing this gap for two reasons:
Firstly, we need to ensure that business has the leadership and management skills it needs to improve productivity and competitiveness.
Secondly, we need to ensure that our workforce has the technical skills that our major sectors need to grow and compete.
How can we do this?
One example is the nuclear sector. Industry and the public sector have worked together to plan skills training based on an understanding of future needs.
A number of organisations will provide different elements of training, to enable progression from school to the most advanced research, all in partnership with business.
The National Nuclear Laboratory, with important Government support, will provide the research and new techniques that the sector needs to stay competitive
The Nuclear Academy will complement this by providing technical skills and continuous development for the industry.
The new University of Cumbria accepted its first students this September and will enable them to study for relevant degrees without leaving Cumbria.
In Lancashire we are working with partners to develop a campus and university centre for Burnley College. This will bring skills provision and businesses together on one site and stimulate interaction between industry, and students.
In Manchester, investment in the Oxford Road corridor is creating a globally important centre of learning and research.
Our ambition is high - to ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities and quality of life which the Northwest has to offer.
We can achieve this, but only if we continue to integrate our approach to business, skills, transport and infrastructure and use resources effectively.
Much of what I have said sounds like hard work. I now want to talk about rest and play.
Tourism is worth ÂŁ11bn to the regionâ€™s economy. It is important as an economic driver, but the sector also manages many of the natural and built places where we rest and play. From walking in the Lake District to the diverse culture of our major cities, we must continue to support and develop our assets.
As well as our major brands and tourist locations we must continue to develop the green space, public places and wider environment that encourage businesses and people to locate and live in the region.
Major events play an important role in securing opportunities for business in the region and bringing new people to the region. We will continue to secure the major international events that bring people to the Northwest and encourage them to return.
In 2008 the region will host two political conferences. The British Chambers of Commerce will gather outside London for the first time. Manchester hosts five international sporting events including the World Swimming Championships. Cheshire is home to Year of the Gardens, and the Open Golf returns to Royal Birkdale. All provide major opportunities for 2008. Each of our sub-regions has a distinctive identity. Each has its own Tourist Board with a clear remit to promote its assets to visitors from within and beyond the Northwest. Each has successful local and international cultural events.
And in 2008 Liverpool will be Europe’s Capital of Culture, reflecting the city’s cultural inheritance and successful renaissance.
Over the last 8 years the region’s economic performance has improved after a long period of industrial decline and restructuring. This morning we have heard from a small number of the people that have driven that change.
The Northwest is, and always has been, an enterprising region. Enterprise means having ideas and making them happen.
Making ideas happen – that’s what we are good at in the Northwest.