For the first time, we have brought senior leaders together with businesses and partners to discuss the opportunities and challenges around creating economic growth in the county.
About 60 businesses and 80 representatives from the public, private and voluntary sector from across the county attended the Delivering Growth in North Yorkshire conference at Harrogate Convention Centre on Friday, 27 July.
The event was an opportunity for the County Council to open a dialogue with businesses, talk about how it is working closely with district councils and other partners to support and encourage growth, and to listen to businesses’ experiences of being in North Yorkshire and what the local authority could do to help them further.
County Councillor Andrew Lee, Executive Member for Open to Business, told the conference: “The economy is something which directly affects everyone and has impacts on individual health and wellbeing, on our ability to be socially active and on our personal prosperity and quality of life.”
Everyone had a role to play in the health of the economy, he said, from individuals to large and small businesses, public sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations and beyond. He spoke about the role of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership in distributing funding and supporting business and the vital work of the county’s seven district councils in providing planning services and supporting investment.
“Probably most important in this picture is the role of businesses themselves who drive innovation, make investments and take risks to keep pace with social and technological change and to maintain and grow market share in increasingly competitive globalised markets,” he said.
“It’s not always easy for public sectors partners to fully appreciate the needs and pressures that businesses experience, just as the intricacies of local government must often appear somewhat opaque and illogical to business. That’s why it’s important to have an open conversation about the needs of the private sector and how we as the public sector can adapt to better enable the core drivers of growth in the economy to be successful.”
The conference heard from a wide range of speakers, including County Council Chief Executive Richard Flinton, who spoke about the challenges facing a large rural county, from the increasing demand for social care and the complexities of transport infrastructure, to the advantages of thriving market towns and small businesses.
Other speakers included:
- Bryn Sage, CEO of Inhealthcare Ltd, on new technologies and digital healthcare;
- Sam Alexander, CEO of Your Consortium, on the social economy in North Yorkshire;
- Martin Kelly, Strategic Business Development Director of Severfield PLC, giving a national and international business perspective;
- Martin McTague, Policy Director of the Federation of Small Businesses, on the challenges ahead for small businesses;
- Stacey Burlet, assistant chief executive at the County Council, on the council’s commercial activity and how it works with partners; and
- David Kerfoot, Chair of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP), giving the LEP’s perspective.
Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Vice Chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for business engagement, concluded the event with the view from Westminster, speaking about the government’s industrial strategy, devolution, and investment post-Brexit.
He said: “Ensuring our county can take advantage of the opportunities before it is critical for sustaining and promoting economic growth. That is why this conference was so important – bringing together district councils, the county council, businesses and other stakeholders to promote action to put economic growth at the heart of our local agenda.”