I’ve always known Bradford was special, but my home city hit new heights last week. The Bradford Bulls won promotion to the Championship amid fantastic scenes at the Odsal Stadium and hundreds of young people discovered exciting new career paths through Bradford Manufacturing Week. Our Business Improvement District (BID) got the green light too, meaning an additional £2.5m investment in the city centre over the next five years.
Proud doesn’t come close to describing how I felt. Seeing the city come together showed what we can do when everyone’s noses are pointing in the same direction. The skills of individual players are the raw ingredients for the Bulls’ success, but mean nothing without teamwork. Manufacturers, schools, civic and business leaders united for Bradford Manufacturing Week with a shared goal of sparking young people’s imaginations about a career in manufacturing and to bang the drum for the sector.
Bradford Manufacturing Week is a big deal – just ask Number 10 Downing Street. Speaking ahead of the event, the Prime Minister Theresa May described it as “a great opportunity to demonstrate how our strong economy and modern industrial strategy is enabling business to thrive across all sectors, as well as enabling future generations to see the potential of a career in the manufacturing industry”.
The cream of our manufacturers – more than 40 companies all told – got behind the programme, including Christeyns, the chemicals and detergent maker with a plant in Bradford, Silsden-based Advanced Actuators, and Whitakers Chocolates, based in Skipton.
Here’s a statistic for you: half of all secondary schools in Bradford district got involved to give students work experience days, tours of plants, mock interviews, help with CVs and tips on how to make a good impression. At Airedale Chemical, young people got to look around the site and learn about different careers by meeting staff in marketing, accounts, transport and health and safety. Shipley-based CarnaudMetalbox pledged to deliver 1,000 work placement days and increase take-up of apprenticeships.
Manufacturing accounts for 10 per cent of the UK’s economy and employs 2.6 million people. In Bradford, it’s 12 per cent. According to EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, 293,000 people work in the sector in Yorkshire and Humberside and output is £15.5bn per
year. It’s a sector that has had its challenges: the historic mills looming over Bradford are a vivid reminder of its history. But our best businesses are thriving.
The sector is currently grappling with the challenges – and opportunities – of Brexit. The value of the pound has fallen on the money markets due to uncertainty about what Brexit might mean for the UK. I know an opportunity when I see one. A cheaper pound means our products and services cost less abroad. This gives us a chance to sell more of what we make and deliver more of what we serve, driving up profits and money to invest in local businesses and jobs.
Whatever you think of Brexit, the Government has to ensure manufacturing stays front and centre. We need imaginative, radical policies for these uncertain times. Bradford has the fourth highest number of manufacturing jobs in the country, after London, Birmingham and Leeds. There are 1,200 manufacturing businesses in Bradford employing 25,000 people.
The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030 makes clear our region’s strengths in
high value work, such as technology, pharmaceuticals and precision engineering. It’s a sector which should be championed.
Nick Garthwaite, managing director of Christeyns, brought the concept of Bradford Manufacturing Week to the Bradford Economic Partnership. We loved the idea and got right behind it, as did the Bradford Chamber of Commerce and a great many local employers.
Nick launched the week during his keynote speech as President of the Chamber last year.
He’s a great champion of the city and we’re lucky to have him on our board. Nick’s idea came about because local manufacturers can sometimes find it difficult to recruit young people. Last week’s events mean more young people now know about the range of careers and that this sector pays well.
There were some great moments as young people who perhaps hadn’t thought of a career in manufacturing became aware of some of the well-paid, rewarding jobs on their doorstep. I expect careers advisors in the region’s schools will be busy in the coming weeks speaking to students with inspired ideas about what they might do after school or college.
Approval for the BID, chaired by Ian Ward, was the third big success story last week. Eligible businesses and organisations were asked to vote for the scheme which will see them contribute through a small levy to raise money to invest in the city. The result was resounding: 79 per cent voted ‘Yes’. It was a great end to a great week.
- Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.
Politicians are often criticised for not giving a straight answer. So it was refreshing to hear Transport Secretary Chris Grayling get to the point at the Conservative Party conference last week: “I really want to see Northern Powerhouse Rail come to Bradford and I am committed to making sure that really does happen.”
His endorsement was perhaps the strongest yet from a senior politician for the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) station in Bradford city centre. As Chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I welcome the words – now an NPR that works for Bradford has to be delivered.
The Yorkshire Post’s readers will be familiar with NPR: a modern rail network to link Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Manchester and Liverpool as well as other economic centres. NPR would create around 850,000 jobs by 2050 and deliver a £100bn economic boost to the country.
We are campaigning for a stunning new Bradford station to be constructed on a purpose-built line between Manchester and Leeds; the former would be 20 minutes away from Bradford and the latter a mere seven. Bradford is the largest city in the UK not to have a through rail line. Getting to and from our great city is made so much more difficult by having a single rail route in and out, deterring investment and opportunity. It shows decades of underinvestment in the city’s infrastructure. Now is the time to change it.
It’s no exaggeration to say that an NPR station in Bradford would be transformative. Transport is so important because business needs clear, easy access to customers and markets. In my role, I’m clear that a station would open up new businesses and investment and bring people to the city: it would renew our appeal as a fantastic place to live and work. Our assets – the beautiful heritage buildings, an entrepreneurial community and our dynamic, talented workforce – have never been in doubt. And the unique character of our streets, our cultural jewels, a welcoming community and the beauty of the surrounding countryside make this a fantastic place to live. But poor transport links have acted as a deterrent to this potential being fully realised. Research has suggested that an NPR station would turbocharge the economy, delivering an annual £1.3bn economic boost to the Bradford region.
Bradford has a rich business community which stands proud on its own. But improved rail links would better place us to benefit from – and contribute to – the economic success of cities like Leeds and Manchester. Better transportation would make it easier for more people to commute to work in Bradford, or live here. We will always have to compete with other cities and regions for business and investment opportunities, but the North’s future success will be determined by working together. The NPR brings the arms and legs of the North closer together; an NPR station in Bradford joins us at the hip.
Improvements are also planned at another transport hub, Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA). Last month, it set out proposals to invest £12m in a new terminal building to enable larger aircraft to use the airport, opening up new destinations. A parkway station on the Leeds to Harrogate rail line is also planned. LBA passenger numbers are expected to reach 7 million per year by 2030 according to the Department for Transport, making it the UK’s fastest-growing airport. To my mind, the rail link can’t come soon enough.
An improved airport, combined with NPR would boost Yorkshire’s economy. High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is another important part of the plan. HS2, the new network between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, seems to have been with us for an age: it actually got the green light back in 2012. Progress since has seemed slow, but things are happening. Work got started last week when workers broke ground at the HS2 building site in Birmingham.
HS2 has its doubters – some argue that NPR should be delivered before HS2. But for my money, the North needs both. People moan about the concentration of business, jobs and opportunity in the south east. But the fact remains that’s where so much of the money is and we need better access to it.
This is a crucial time for NPR. Transport for North (TFN) is finalising its NPR plans to send to the Treasury in December. I will watch with interest: Bradford needs NPR. Commitments have been made, and should be kept.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.
Whatever your politics, party conference season is always fun. It’s a grand stage for politicians to step forward, inspire the faithful and try to win over undecided voters. Major policy announcements are made to rapturous applause and there’s usually the odd controversy and minor mishap too.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, made the headlines at the Labour Party conference last month with plans for an “inclusive ownership fund”. If elected, Labour will require companies with more than 250 people to set up a fund and transfer 1 per cent of equity in each year, up to a total of 10 per cent. As part-owners of the business, employees would be entitled to receive an annual bonus of up to £500.
Some applauded the principle of workers being part-owners of the business that employs them and enjoying a share of the profits. Others slammed the idea: the Institute of Directors (IoD) warned of a “negative effect on business investment and business formation”. The Bank of England’s Chief Economist had an interesting take. Andy Haldane, who hails from Guiseley, has a reputation for fresh thinking. While stopping short of endorsing the plan, Haldane noted that research had shown that firms which are employee-owned can perform better than those which aren’t.
Whatever your view, there’s clearly a debate about how well capitalism is serving society, or if it’s too often the other way round. Look at Britain today: some are doing well while others are left behind. Business isn’t an idle spectator in this debate. The bottom line is crucial to any business leader, but it doesn’t always have to be the be-all-and-end-all. Bradford has a proud tradition of looking after its own. Visitors to Saltaire are amazed by the scale and beauty of the town that the Victorian industrialist Sir Titus Salt constructed for his workers, now a World Heritage Site. The names of other Yorkshire philanthropists echo in Roberts Park, Forster Square and Lister Mills.
Skipton Building Society was recently named in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Companies to work for for the fourth year in a row and in August unveiled first half profits before tax of £104.7m. Skipton is nominated for three awards in The Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business Awards 2018. Not bad for a mutual organisation which is run for the benefit of members. Bradford’s Yorkshire Building Society, another mutual, has enjoyed similar success; it also reported a solid performance in the first half.
As Chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I’m clear that the economic growth that we are striving to achieve must be inclusive. I’m a big fan of the Keighley Textile Academy, which was launched in 2017 to train skilled workers for local manufacturers. The first cohort of students included three Asian women who had been unemployed and who were then taken on by a local business, JTS Cushions. The number may be small, but the Academy was a game-changer for these women.
The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 is our plan to support other fantastic businesses and grow the economy through innovation, increasing productivity and creating wealth. We want to see wages rise: average earnings in Bradford are £476 per week against a UK average of £550 per week. Putting more money in peoples’ pockets would make growth more inclusive and reflect the rising cost of living. It also gives people more to spend on local shops and services.
The Ecology Building Society, an ethical lender which finances environmentally-friendly projects, is leading the way here. The Silsden-based group is accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, which encourages businesses to pay workers what it sees as the ‘real’ cost of living. The Living Wage Foundation puts this at £8.75 per hour for workers outside London compared to the Government’s National Living Wage of £7.83 per hour for the over 25s.
Increasing workplace productivity is another piece of this jigsaw. According to one measure of productivity, gross value added (GVA) in Bradford is £18,600 versus a UK average of £26,000. If it reached the UK average, the value of Bradford’s economy would rise from £10bn to £14bn.
So I’ll leave it to others to debate the pros and cons of inclusive ownership funds. But you don’t need to be an economist to know that paying someone fairly for the work they do and giving them a say in what happens at work should make them productive. You can call this politics; I call it common sense.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.
Despite the gloomy autumnal weather, a walk through Bradford always puts a spring in my step. Stunning heritage architecture around every corner, businesses primed to grow and an enterprising young population: this is a fantastic base from which to grow a city in the global economy.
Bradford is the UK’s youngest city, with more than a quarter of the population under 18. Other places would chop off their right arm for this: young people are often the game-changers with the talent to spot an opportunity and the energy and dynamism to do it. Everyone in Bradford has a part to play in unlocking our economic potential but it’s our young, diverse population that will shake things up.
The Observer newspaper this month published a list of Britain’s 50 best social enterprises. The New Radicals 2018 are the pick of social enterprises which are making waves by doing good for society or the environment. Schemes include work to support migrants, help people find work, increase recycling, and support children with disabilities.
As chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership, I want Bradford to be the UK’s fastest-growing economy over the next decade. This isn’t business for business’ sake: I’m motivated by improving access to employment and education and people having the chance to achieve their potential. To do this, our public sector, businesses and social enterprises will need to fire on all cylinders.
Bradford was well-represented in the New Radicals 2018 list and several local inspirational women featured. Ruth Ibegbuna, a community leader from Bradford who leads the Roots Programme, was a judge. She knows a thing or two having worked as a teacher before setting up the Reclaim Project in 2007, a youth leadership and social change organisation.
Fiona Broadfoot was in the top 50. She’s an inspirational activist who runs an organisation to support women at risk of being sexually exploited by providing long-term support, advice and assistance. Heroes like Fiona don’t always get the recognition they deserve. I hope that awards like the New Radicals 2018 may help fix that.
Common Wealth is a community theatre group co-founded and run by Evie Manning from Speaker’s Corner, a Bradford city centre creative space. This New Radical-listed group puts on entertaining yet thought-provoking socially and politically-inspired theatre on subjects including Muslim female boxers and tough times in the UK’s steel industry. This is inclusive enterprise with genuine purpose, by bringing audiences together it seeks to raise awareness and inspire positive change.
Evie Manning is in good company in coming through Bradford’s thriving arts and cultural scene. This month, Syima Aslam, founder of the Bradford Literature Festival, won in the Hospital Club 100 Awards, which recognise influential and innovative talent in the UK’s creative industries. I’m a huge fan of Syima’s and think she’s destined to do more great things.
If you’re an art lover you may have heard of Madani Younis. If not, you soon will: it was announced this month that he is to be the next director of London’s Southbank, the UK’s biggest arts centre. Younis cut his teeth in Bradford, as founding artistic director of the Freedom Theatre. He will take some Bradford flair and Yorkshire grit to one of the biggest arts jobs in the country.
As well as these inspirational leaders, there’s also a new generation of businesspeople being inspired by Bradford’s powerful culture of entrepreneurship. There are around 35,000 self-employed people here and in 2017, Bradford was named best city in the UK to start a business by Barclays.
Entrepreneur Gemma Andrews began blogging about cooking while living in London. As the blog became popular, readers asked for the recipes and ingredients. Gemma spotted an opportunity to make her mark up by supplying the ingredients herself and set up shop. She returned to her home city to grow the business and today Superfood Market turns over a cool £10m and trades in 48 countries. After being named Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 in the Bradford Means Business Awards this summer, the 30-year-old said: “Bradford is a perfect environment to grow a business.”
Stories like these show the amazing talent and dedication of Bradford’s people. When our young people are inspired, fantastic things happen on these streets. Here’s to the ones who shake things up.
- Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club