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Encouraging Business Investment in Thriving Yorkshire – Institute of Directors


Maceys Bar in Newcastle

This blog was written by our Leeds-based Practice Lead, Nick Green.

Step back in time

I am at heart a passionate Geordie, born, bred, and raised in the “Toon”.  I played mini rugby at Northern Rugby Club and pulled pints in Macey’s Bar in the Bigg Market.  Such fun and an education in life! 

The North played host to my formative years, but by 18, I was ready to fly the nest and embark on life beyond the comfort of home. My first experience of life beyond the North and socialising in the Bigg Market came courtesy of my school reunion dinner at the Institute of Directors London in 1990. 

As I trekked from Newcastle to London via train, I squeezed into my father’s ill-fitting dinner jacket.  A tube ride to Green Park and a stroll along Pall Mall soon had me staring at the imposing entrance of 116 Pall Mall, patron saint to the Institute of Directors.

Feeling ennobled in my ill-fitting dinner jacket, I strode up the stairs and reached out to open the huge imposing doors. Alas, I was too slow, beaten by doormen dressed in tails. Glaring down at this young Northerner festooned in an ill-fitting dinner jacket they inquired, “how might we be of assistance, sir?” In reality, “are you looking for the tradesman’s entrance?”

Undaunted I strolled past the doormen, as if the Institute of Directors was the norm for this young aspiring Geordie lad in black tie.  Striding up the grand staircase surrounded by walls emblazoned with paintings of Kings and Queens, I thought about the welcome.  How it contrasted with the welcome that patrons of Macy’s Bar received, “now lads, wiz divun wont neh trubal maykaz, reet”! 

A thriving high-value economy

Thirty two years later, I once again graced 116 Pall Mall.  Whilst I have changed, the grand old 116 Pall Mall is exactly as I remembered.  The staircase with the opulent entrance is as I recall, except now my grey hair seemed to blend in alarmingly well with my surroundings.  Is it my age, or does the cut of my jacket look like it was meant for me and not someone else this time?

Whatever the reason, I was there to host a conference about a subject dear to my heart.  As a proud Geordie, Yorkshire and the North is a far cry from the region during the seventies.  Long gone are the scars of industrial decline, which I recall so vividly as a child.

Today, Yorkshire and the North host a thriving business community.  Where once stood vast warehouses along the quayside, trendy bars now host launch parties to private equity firms such as BGF who recently opened a Newcastle office. 

Former Mills in Yorkshire now harbour a myriad of start-up and high-growth companies providing solutions for the growing GIG economy.  Scratch below the surface and you will find a concentration of high energy dynamic companies such as StemCellX, Hicomply and Panintelligence.

These companies founded and led by driven visionary leaders, passionate about their subject, represent the future of the North.  As the levelling up agenda gathers momentum, one has to question the cost of investing and “doing business” in the South compared to the North.

North vs South

The South, with an overconcentration of liquidity, inflated business valuations and burgeoning costs of living, is in stark contrast to Yorkshire and the North.  York to London, 1hr 49mins on a fast train, Fulham to the City, circa 1 hr by Tube.  A 2 bed flat in London, in excess of £1m compared to a 4-5 bedroom house in rural Yorkshire.  The average compensation of a CFO in the South East is often in excess of 25% greater than their Norther counterparts.

Leeds city

Is it any surprise that capital is starting to migrate up North from the South.  In our post-pandemic world, modern communications and increased logistics facilitate remote working.  No longer do companies and staff need to be based in proximity to the City or Canary Wharf. 

Increasingly, people and companies elect to take advantage of cost effective living, and the work life balance that Yorkshire and the North offer.  Is it any surprise that the Yorkshire and North feels like it is on a roll.

I am compelled to go further.  The Yorkshire and North which I returned to after 18 years in Hong Kong, feels like it is on the cusp of a new industrial revolution.  This time, our future economic dominance will not be signposted by Lowry paintings, adorned with matchstick men and women worming their way to work past weary buildings under the spectre of forlorn skies.

No, this time I passionately believe Yorkshire and the North will become destinations of choice with people and businesses seeking to take advantage of attractive economics and unrivalled work life balance.

Institute of Directors Levelling up in Yorkshire Conference

Rome was not built in a day, but things worth having are worth working for.  The road is long and much needs to be improved to help Yorkshire and the North achieve a new enlightened zenith.  This is why I and Nigel Wright Group, in conjunction with the Institute of Directors, hosted the Yorkshire North Levelling Up conference at 116 Pall Mall this week.

Prestigious firms such as PWC, Invest Leeds, Nigel Wright Group and others, teamed up for the event at 116 Pall Mall along with 120 attendees, to discuss the virtues and challenges facing Yorkshire and the North.

Our message was concise and unambiguous. Yorkshire and the North is open for business, and we welcome investment!  Private Equity firms and Angel Investors filled the room.  Six hours later, attendees left with a new and exciting perspective of Yorkshire and the North. 

Nick presenting at the IoD Levelling up event

I am delighted that at least one Private Equity firm is now considering placing boots on the ground to identify investment opportunity throughout the region.  But could existing investors in the region feel threatened by increased investment activity?  Not at all. Increased investment fuels growth and stimulates business activity which benefits all. 

Of course, there is much to be done.  Improvements to road and rail communications are perennial issues.  Easier to address is the need to secure greater coordination across the Yorkshire and North business community.  Manchester is a beacon and shining example of what can be achieved when communities and leaders work harmoniously together.

But I for one am proud.  I am proud that our conference did its part to promote Yorkshire and the North.  As President Kennedy stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”

If like me, you are compelled to ask what you can do for Yorkshire and the North, contact me, Nick Green at nick.green@nigelwright.com.

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