Devolution: Image is key to North East prosperity
Jeremy Middleton, founder of Middleton Enterprises
In the latest of a series of articles looking at the areas potentially boosted by the North East devolution deal and strong mayoral leadership, Jeremy Middleton looks at the power of marketing.
If the North East is going to become more prosperous, we will need to change things. We will need to get a better image.
Too many people in our country and even more around the world either don't know where we are, or don't know anything about us, or just think it's all “grim up north”. Excellent, you may think, that keeps them away and we can be happy in our own world. However, that needs to change if we are all to be better off in the future.
We need more people to want to live here, because a growing population is a big factor in a growing economy. We want more companies to move here from the south, where it's more expensive to operate, and from abroad, because we offer great access to European markets. And we want more tourists to visit here. And let's be honest we want all this because we want their money, their investment and their skills.
Now, lots of businesses are coming here. We all know the success of Nissan and, with the incentives of our Enterprise Zone off the A19, and the new advanced manufacturing park, more and more of their suppliers are heading this way. I'm sure we can get the same benefits of more and better paid jobs with the arrival of Hitachi’s UK manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe.
However, since the demise of One North East neither our place marketing nor our inward investment functions have been good enough.
It is nearly five years since the Regional Development Agency was abolished. The efforts of its successor body – the Regional Investment Gateway Team, in case you wondered – have been valiant. However, it has a central team of three people! Bearing in mind that well over 56,000 thousand people are employed by our local authorities, I think it's fair to say that this can't be regarded as a top priority. It should be.
The recent visit of Nick Forbes, the Leader of Newcastle City Council, who joined George Osborne on his recent trip to China was a good example of what we need to be doing. We need a distinctive North East identity, we need a proactive approach to marketing ourselves, we need a whole North East approach. The significance of local authority boundaries are a bit lost on the Chinese, I suspect, and we need to be generally more joined up and better resourced with both our place marketing and our inward investment services.
There are lots of bodies that are doing good work in this area. Top of the list is Invest Newcastle. There are inward investment teams in all the local authorities, there are numerous business support organisations active in encouraging inward investment and promoting our region - the Journal and its sister papers fly the flag with gusto as does the North East Chamber of Commerce.
However, we remain too disaggregated, with too many silos and sometimes the individual elements fail to come together to deliver a knock-out proposition. We have to find a way to address this - starting with a coming together of resources. Lord Adonis set out the case for North East international as a properly-resourced marketing agency and inward investment body for the whole of the North East.
Four years on and that proposal has not been effectively actioned.
I hope that as the dust settles on the devolution debate the leadership will emerge that will deliver this, another important building block for a more prosperous North East.
Jeremy Middleton is founder of Middleton Enterprises, a £50m investment company based on Tyneside. He is also a board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF MIDDLETON ENTERPRISES
CONTACT: Paul White on 01325 363436
Notes to Editors:
Middleton Enterprises Ltd is a private investment company that has made a substantial contribution to the North East’s economy by investing in and providing business advice to entrepreneurial businesses.
During recent years, it has supported a number of North East businesses, generally from start-up, usually taking a minority stake and offering strategic advice to support growth.
Mr Middleton is a high-profile entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Newcastle. He started his career as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble before working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a Marketing Consultant. He co-founded HomeServe, now a FTSE 250 company which operates in the UK, the USA, France, Spain and Italy, and remains a shareholder with a seat on the Executive Committee. He is a director at North East based energy and water consultancy company Utilitywise PLC.
Mr Middleton and his family are active supporters of Maggie’s Centre and World Vision, an international charity which works to improve the lives of people in developing countries.
Mr Middleton has carried out a range of sponsored fundraising for a variety of charities which to date include the North Pole, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, The Haute Route, Mount McKinley, Mount Elbrus and a cycle ride from London to Paris.
Mr Middleton has been a Board Member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) since 2011 and is Chairman of the North East LEP Investment Fund, which makes recommendations to the LEP Board for the £25m Growing Places Fund and the £30m Infrastructure Fund.
In 2012 Jeremy was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for Services to Politics and Charities.« Back
Jeremy Middleton, founder of Middleton Enterprises