Ursula Lidbetter: Welcoming the Midlands Engine Vision for Growth

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The Midlands Engine has unveiled its Vision for Growth and we at the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership welcome it wholeheartedly.

We have spent a good deal of time working with the Midlands Engine team and shaping our own contribution over the summer, so it’s pleasing to see the vision finally become a reality.

The key principle of the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse projects is to rebalance the UK economy, shifting resources away from London and the south-east and creating a level playing field on which the other regions of the UK can flourish economically.

The Midlands Engine has made a good start and is working proactively with LEPs, businesses and local authorities to achieve lasting change that will benefit everyone living in the Midlands – including in Greater Lincolnshire.

Many of the strengths that the Midlands Engine wishes to promote are closely aligned with our own specialisms; manufacturing is one of the key pillars of the Midlands economy and in Greater Lincolnshire we certainly make a significant contribution to that sector.

There are 2,350 registered manufacturing businesses operating in our area, manufacturing represents almost one-fifth of our total economic output (£3.6 billion per year), and it employs 63,000 people, or 15 per cent of the workforce.

It is fitting that the Midlands Engine Vision for Growth looks to a future that is inevitably going to bring change – not only in terms of our trading partners post-Brexit, but also in terms of the new technologies that will transform all our lives. We will be focusing on some of these innovations at LEP Business Live at the Lincolnshire Showground this month because we understand how rapidly change will come and how important it is for our business community to be ready for the new world that lies ahead.

We also recognise the need for the UK to improve its productivity, and to do this we have to raise our game and ensure that our workforce has the level of skills required to do the job. I am pleased, therefore, to see that the Vision for Growth emphasises both productivity and skills.

The stated aim of the Midlands Engine Vision is to power the UK economy and to compete on the world stage. In numerical terms the ambition is to close the productivity gap so that we match or exceed the national average GVA (Gross Value Added) and add £54 billion to the UK economy by 2030.

Other key themes in the Midlands Engine Vision for Growth can be summarised as follows:

Connectivity: Deliver the Midlands Connect transport strategy and accelerate the implementation of HS2, while securing full funding for a rail, road and smart connectivity package. It will also seek to maximise the potential of the regions airports.

Investment in strategic infrastructure: Creating a 5G mobile network technology digital test-bed, increase logistics and freight capabilities.

Growing international trade and investment: Explore the potential of an international free trade zone, expand the Midlands Engine trade and investment programme, and create a fund to attract large events and conferences.

Increasing innovation and enterprise: Create an environment which capitalises on the region’s economic strengths while aiming to secure national initiatives, sector deals and investments.

Shaping great places: Secure strategic relocations and work with Visit England and Visit Britain to create tourism marketing campaigns, and enable 600,000 homes to be built within 15 years.

The strategic location of the Midlands, its strong manufacturing background and its reputation as the beating heart of the national economy means we are well placed to achieve these goals. The Greater Lincolnshire LEP will continue to work hard to help the Midlands Engine achieve success.