2016 has been a weird old year hasn’t it? Full of surprises, twists and turns you would never have predicted in December last year, which is why it’s always risky to make them for the year ahead. However, I’m an eternally optimistic guy so I’m going to tell you about some things that are already exciting me about 2017.
Firstly, despite all the shock and confusion around Brexit, the Labour Leadership challenge and the North East Combined Authority’s vote against Devolution, I believe 2017 will be the year our region comes into its own as we roll up our sleeves and work together to grow our local economy and show the UK Government, national media and international business community why we are such a great place to start and grow a business.
Yes, the uncertainty around Brexit and loss of EU funding could potentially make things very difficult for us, but until Article 50 is invoked (if at all) we need to knuckle down and use the first few months of 2017 to up the ante and do everything we can both individually and collectively to encourage more people to start or grow a business in the North East and attract more inward investment from other parts of the UK and around the world.
But this isn’t just pie in the sky wishful thinking. We already manufacture and export more goods to the EU than any other UK region and have a thriving IT/tech/digital/creative sector that research has shown is the second fastest-growing in the country after London. Our low cost of living yet high quality of life, plus five fantastic universities churning out thousands of excellent graduates each year also makes it a very attractive place for established businesses to re-locate or open another office.
Despite all this, we still lag behind other areas of the UK in terms of business startup and scale up rates as ‘entrepreneurship’ is often seen as something that is done elsewhere and too many people are afraid to start that business they’ve always wanted to do, for fear of failure or ridicule. However, we have a rich and proud heritage of innovation and invention here in the North East which was the catalyst for the industrial revolution and tipped the power of balance away from London and the South East and towards ‘the North’.
It’s for this reason that my team and I are pulling together a 5-day, citywide ‘Newcastle Startup Week’ between 15-19 May with support from the North East LEP, Sage, Federation of Small Businesses, Blu Sky Tax, GP Bullhound and more to remind ourselves and others what a great region we are and to act as the catalyst for a new industrial revolution that begins right here in Newcastle upon Tyne.
I hope you can join us by ‘registering your interest’ at http://newcastlestartupweek.com or helping to spread the word through your network.