BE BOLD with the region’s unique assets was one of the messages heard by delegates at the York & North Yorkshire Business Summit on Friday.
Hosted by York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Chair, Helen Simpson OBE, the event saw a succession of high-profile speakers from 13 regional businesses take to the stage at the Radisson York Hotel. They shared their business vision for the region, ahead of devolution and an expected mayoral election in spring next year.
Keynote speaker, former BBC Dragons’ Den ‘Dragon’ Piers Linney, told more than 200 attendees they needed to be audacious in embracing technology as part of devolution. He argued new technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), offered the chance to level up the workforce, making background and disabilities irrelevant.
Piers Linney said:
Take some of the £750million (devolution funding) and invest in a garden shed where you can blow things up. Play with the technology, see how it can augment all of us, play with education and then connect the talent to the technology. Invest in cutting edge and bleeding edge technology.
Superpower and empower the people in your region.
James Farrar, Interim Director of Transition for the proposed York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority, backed the call for businesses and innovators to be bold.
James Farrar said:
We need to crack on with devolution and make sure the process gets through parliament as soon as possible.
We are not Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds. We must be York and North Yorkshire and we must recognise our assets. We must be bold and clear about where we see our competitive advantages. No sector can rest on its laurels.
Let us know what infrastructure and support you need in place to invest and grow. Our job as a Combined Authority will be to put that in place – yours is to invest and grow.
The Summit was organised by York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (YNY LEP) in partnership with The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Also on the agenda was Lou Cordwell OBE, Chair of Greater Manchester Business Board. She urged the region’s businesses to collaborate closely with the elected mayor and advised the region to capitalise on its rail links to London, and quality of life, to attract a skilled workforce to the region.
Lou Cordwell said:
Inclusivity should be baked into devolution from the start.
Think about how this opportunity can work for everyone, whether it’s skills or technology, you have the opportunity to write the blueprint. Strong leadership will be key to achieving that.
Leader of City of York Council, Cllr Claire Douglas, agreed that devolution should create positive impact for everyone.
Cllr Claire Douglas said:
Devolution can help us to create a region people love to live in and thrive in. It’s also about the transport. We need to get people to jobs and jobs to people. Working together we surely can do it.
MP for Malton and Thirsk, Kevin Hollinrake, addressed the summit by video, and told delegates that devolution was a great opportunity for the region.
Kevin Hollinrake added:
First and foremost it must be about economic development. That drives everything else. It’s right that we try to make York and North Yorkshire the best place in the UK to do business.
With one of the key aims of the Summit being to establish a business vision for the new mayoral combined authority, speaking shortly after the event, Helen Simpson said it was clear businesses in the region wanted to see collaboration across the board.
Helen Simpson said:
What I’m hearing from the summit is that success under devolution will come if there is a unity of ambition between the mayor and our businesses, whether they’re well-established sectors or some of the exciting innovators at the cutting edge of technology. Collaboration is key.
We heard calls to be bold in adapting the technologies and innovations that will help York and North Yorkshire compete on a global stage. I believe also that our fantastic educational institutions are creating graduates and skilled workers who want to stay in this region – and it’s vital we do help them to stay here.
For devolution to be a success we need a strong voice for business within the Combined Authority and we’re committed to ensuring that the mayor has strong connections with the York and North Yorkshire business community.