I used to call the Northern Powerhouse the M62 corridor. Not quite as affluent as the M4 corridor, but it was ours, local and err, Northern.
The M62 corridor from Liverpool, past Manchester, across to Leeds and eventually ending in Hull is perhaps the largest and most easily accessible business area in the North of the UK. Unleashed have been carrying out IT consultancy and support activities right across this region for some time. Whilst I know there is an occasional nod to Sheffield and Newcastle in some Northern Powerhouse speeches. However, Warrington is often notable in its absence – and I find this to be a bit strange as it’s probably one of the largest areas for businesses in the Northwest due to its great transport links and history of chemical and other high tech industries.
Let us also not forget my home region of Cumbria and our brethren of another Sea over in the Tees Valley (we have almost the same accent)…
The problem is with the Northern Powerhouse is we don’t know if it’s a transport strategy, an economic strategy or just political nonsense. The reports I’ve found are largely transport related. Which is great, I don’t think given as much pride I have in my home county, the construction in the 70s and 80s of the two-carriage Pacer train in Workington (based on a Leyland National bus) is a constant source of frustration for commuters in the Northwest. Although it could be argued if Northern Rail didn’t have the pride of their fleet to laugh at, they’d not have anything going for them at all!
As a tech entrepreneur, what I really find annoying is the lack of technology being discussed. Cumbria and most of Yorkshire are still very much broadband not-spots. I tweak my flat cap at the farmers in Yorkshire and the communities who have dug in their own fibre. Sadly to find that BT wakes up only when there’s competition and enables fibre to their exchanges.
I for one am getting tired of governmental branding that has no substance.
TechCity, which I have personally tried to interact with in order to get a few ideas motoring, is nothing more than a brand for something that was already happening in Shoreditch. Whether I believe the Northern Powerhouse is something to do with economic issues or very minor transport improvements is kind of irrelevant – the reality, whatever the government is trying to represent with the brand, was probably already happening. The grit and determination of us Northern folk, flat caps ‘n’ all was causing growth in the area and businesses in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool opening up offices in their neighbouring cities. It’s happened before, it’s happening now and it’ll happen again.
I want to see the side-brand TechNorth be better than TechCity and actually useful to those people with ideas but struggling to get them off the ground.
The way we’ll make something of the brand is by the entrepreneurs and business people of the North making something of it themselves; from the buzz and the access to potential investors. Which is maybe what the plan has been all along.
That’s how we’ll get our tech and substance to the Northern Powerhouse branding.
If you’ve been affected by issues in this blog, then please call our helpline… or better still reach out to me on twitter @chrisrogan and we’ll see where the conversation goes.