The scale of the economic opportunity in the East Midlands is huge, and it’s neatly summarised by a new manifesto for the future of the regional economy launched by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce: A Centre of Trading Excellence.
Anyone who wants to get a feel for the regional economy should heed the Chamber’s perspective: it’s the biggest Chamber of Commerce in the UK and represents more than 4,000 firms across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, ranging from small firms to supply chain companies and global industrials.
The East Midlands has struggled to articulate its big picture potential in the past because of its fragmented nature – three cities rather than one regional capital (like Birmingham), and no tradition of cross-regional cooperation (like Greater Manchester).
But there are encouraging signs it is joining the dots in a big way. It secured a Freeport centred on East Midlands Airport that will have an impact across the region; a consortium of local authorities came together to form the East Midlands Development Company; and there are plans for a Combined Authority.
Against that background, the Chamber’s manifesto paints a powerful picture of regional opportunity grounded in economic logic. It makes a clear case for coherent government support that incentivises business investment, unlocks innovation potential, provides the infrastructure the region’s economy needs to deliver more, and builds on its status as a natural hotspot for international trade.
Joining the dots
It stresses, too, the need to encourage investment in people and skills and to drive the net zero agenda rather than back away from it. It reflects what businesses themselves want to happen.
So how do we get that support? Government needs maximum bang per buck to justify investment. That comes from a principle called ‘additionality’ – over and above the project you want support for, government needs to see what additional return you can deliver by joining the dots with other investments.
Progress is a team game. When you put the Chamber’s manifesto together with initiatives like the Freeport, the Development Company and a combined authority, you have positive signs that the region is focusing increasingly on a joined-up bigger picture.
We know from our work with the region’s local authorities that they’re pushing hard on key agendas related to levelling up communities. The Chamber’s manifesto shows clearly that regional firms are in a very strong position to deliver the additional growth the UK economy desperately needs.
It’s time for government to focus on the East Midlands.