I published the following post a couple of weeks ago asking the question of why the Northern Powerhouse had dropped off the radar. Fast forward to today and the visit to Manchester of Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to reinvigorate the Northern Powerhouse concept through a number of deals promising investment into the region.
So will this dose of Chinese medicine be what is needed to kickstart the Northern Powerhouse? As with the talk before the election, it will be interesting to see what happens after the state visit ends and to see if the investment that is promised happen and for these projects to be delivered.
The health of the Northern Powerhouse
I have confession to make. I wrote the first draft of this blog back in April ahead of the election, but life being life in a busy and successful agency the draft sat on my desktop as v0.9 waiting for some time to polish it off and punch up the adjectives.
If you cast your mind back to 5 months the country was in full election swing and politicians of all persuasions were falling over themselves to offer businesses a bright and cheery vision of life in the coming months and years.
One phrase in particular was a constant whenever senior government figures appeared at a photocall in a power station, call centre or railway station north of Birmingham – “The Northern Powerhouse”.
What is the Northern Powerhouse?
London and the South East was saturated, the North was where all the growth was going to happen with infrastructure projects to make travelling from Leeds to Liverpool as quick as crossing East to West London, devolved power for Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield to enable them to invest as they saw fit to encourage businesses to the region. Regardless of which side of the Pennines you were from – the good times were coming!!!
So what happened?? And more importantly, to return to the title of my blog, how is the health of the Northern Powerhouse now?
One of the most telling things in the past 150 days or so since the last election, as far as the Northern Powerhouse (as a political concept) is concerned is that it hasn’t been completely abandoned.
The halt on rail projects has been restarted this week and in the past couple of weeks the political commentators have reported that the chancellor in China, and PM in New York, have been courting investment in some of the hero projects such as HS2.
But what about those of us actually driving the Northern economy?
From where we sit at Fantastic Media, it’s all looking pretty good! Our clients based in the region are all exceeding growth targets, we see graduates across all disciplines from partner universities improve all the time and increasingly we see talent in terms of marketers within Fantastic, our clients, and other agencies we speak to increasingly migrating from London and other perceived centres of excellence.
Which is all great, but what is next for the Northern Powerhouse?
Firstly, despite it all going quiet for 140 of the past 150 days, the government still seems interested. As mentioned both George Osborne in China and David Cameron in New York have been selling the north to potential investors. There is a minister for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton and the electrification of the rail lines through the Pennines was restarted this week.
Over the past few months at Fantastic Media we have taken on a number of pieces of work for clients based in London and the South East who are attracted by our blend of talent & skill, business savvy approach and genuine value that is built into every project we undertake. Clearly London still attracts talent from across the world, but the UK has always been innovators and leaders in marketing, advertising and digital and perhaps businesses are realising that is the case outside of the M25?
So, how is the health of the Northern Powerhouse? Personally I’d give it a 6 out of 10. There are undoubtedly opportunities for the economy to flourish and businesses to grow, but for the full realisation of the Northern Powerhouse is going to come to fruition, we need more than soundbites from our politicians.