Strong leadership is vital in all successful businesses. The same principle applies to regional economic growth, which is why the North East Local Enterprise Partnership is spearheading work to lead greater prosperity.
The team provides strategic economic leadership and influence for the region, working to win the support of the business community, local authorities, colleges and universities to deliver a plan to create 100,000 new jobs by 2024. It’s big task with a huge prize. One that requires an understanding of the global political environment, clear leadership, and the ability to influence and bring others along for the journey by articulating how the interventions made are designed to help the North East grow and thrive. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has worked hard to build relationships across the private, public and third sectors, winning new investment from Government to pump into high return areas for the economy such as skills development, innovation and business growth with the aim of improving economic opportunities for the people and businesses of the region. It is an organisation in a unique position, tasked with bringing partners together to deliver the new jobs and economic prosperity set out in the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).A refreshed, tightly focused SEP targeting investment into areas of world class strength and opportunity and improving the local economic environment is the result of extensive consultation with partners who have bought into the North East LEP’s vision of a better, more prosperous future. The North East LEP now enjoys enviable credibility with its partners and influence in Whitehall thanks to a strong board under the chairmanship of highly successful businessman Andrew Hodgson and a committed senior management team led by Executive Director Helen Golightly.
It’s been a process of evolution to earn the trust and support of regional partners since the North East LEP’s creation six years ago. And it’s an on-going challenge for the organisation to maintain and grow this backing, crucial to creating an economy where businesses want to invest and one which creates more and better jobs. “We have done a lot of work over the last three years in trying to embed the SEP as the umbrella policy document with key organisations, so when they are setting their strategic plans they will take the SEP into account which they are doing now and would never have done three years ago,” said Helen. “The original SEP set out areas that we really needed to focus on to make a difference. In the refreshed SEP we have sharpened our focus, tested it and looked at the evidence to see that we are going in the right direction of travel, which our partners tell us we are.
We now have a document which communicates our aims and opportunities clearly with the aim of being more competitive.” This sharpening of focus has resulted in the successful development and roll out of the North East Growth Hub an online platform to give SMEs better access to business funding. Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the LEP, said: “We are helping to develop the blueprint for the development of the national growth hub network, sitting on Government task forces around the implementation of the industrial strategy and how growth hubs play into that. “We are increasingly seen as thought leaders in that space. “Good leadership requires a really clear vision and clear goals just so people can understand how they can contribute to that. The SEP is clear about those vital few things that we need to deliver that will have a big impact on the economy and people can get behind that.” The LEP’s Head of Strategy and Policy Richard Baker has witnessed how greater consultation with partners has boosted support for the LEP’s role as a leader of regional economic development. “What’s happened over the past couple of years is that we have become a lot clearer about what the region’s opportunities and challenges are and what our role as the champion of the region is and we have become more visible regionally and nationally,” said Richard. “People are buying into what we are doing more, people look towards us for evidence, information, commentary, support and communication activity as an impartial co-ordinator who can help bring people together.”
e beauty of the LEP is we work across the whole of the region and can bring together all partners like all ten colleges, four universities and lots of schools who may not have had the opportunity to engage at a strategic level before and we can support them to do that.Michelle Rainbow, North East LEP
And Hans Moller, the LEP’s Director of Innovation, said: “I’ve seen a shift in the two-and-a-half years since I’ve been here where at first I think the LEP was living in the shadow of the Regional Development Agencies and of One North East. “It has evolved into an understanding of where the LEP is about thought leadership, as a co-ordinating body, especially in the smart spec sectors and organisations are approaching the LEP to develop sector strategies.” The North East LEP has embraced social media tools to help share the success of its trailblazing projects such as the Gatsby Foundation Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks pilot in regional schools and to give a louder voice to partners. North East LEP Communications Manager Jen Robson said: “We share our communications platforms with our partners to help them amplify their key messages to audiences, focusing on sectors and issues that are vital to regional economic growth. “Not only does this help reach national decision makers, but it builds the LEP’s reputation as a coordinating body, a thought leader and a facilitator.” It is also the ability to bring people and organisations together and pool their expertise for the greater good, which sets the LEP apart as a regional leader. The LEP’s Skills for Business Manager Michelle Rainbow, said: “The beauty of the LEP is we work across the whole of the region and can bring together all partners like all ten colleges, four universities and lots of schools who may not have had the opportunity to engage at a strategic level before and we can support them to do that.