Good national press shows progress we’re making with economic strategy

“Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo, when you’ve got Bradford?” That was an attention-grabbing headline in The Times at the weekend. Okay, it was only a Giles Coren restaurant review but we’ll take the glowing national coverage as an example of the positive momentum we’re gaining as a district.

By the time you read this, Bradford Economic Partnership will have hosted its +365 event to review the progress of our economic growth strategy. All being well, I will give readers a full report on proceedings in +7, but in the meantime we would like to share some highlights of our first annual review, which went to the printers just after I wrote this column.

Entitled Pioneering, Confident and Connected, the document provides a snapshot of the year to March 6 2019 and updates on our efforts to attract new investors, start up and scale up businesses, build new partnerships and bring more people into the workforce. We are working hard to deliver on these aims by focusing on four key strengths: our young and enterprising population, our distinctive offer, our growth potential and our globally connected district.

Take our young and enterprising population. Our strategy aims to ensure that all people are equipped with the skills and confidence to succeed. The district saw 4,870 apprenticeship starts last year. Each one of those represents the important first step for many young people’s working lives, providing them with the chance to successfully establish themselves, start earning some money and grow in confidence. We are also trying to make a difference earlier on. The district won £5.5m in funding to increase participation in extra-curricular activities, with every school and college receiving a grant to provide programmes that help children to develop resilience, team working, communication and other essential life skills.

Take our distinctive offer. We aim to use our unique assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. Our offer has developed through a number of initiatives, notably through the successful vote for a Business Improvement District in Bradford city centre which follows on from the creation of the Keighley BID in 2016. The Keighley BID is doing some great work developing Cavendish Street as a hub for specialist independent businesses, helped by the refurbishment of the famous Victorian canopy. More widely, Bradford was named Europe’s emerging destination of the year by the Luxury Travel Guide, whose editors were impressed by our modern cosmopolitan city.

Take our growth potential. We aim to build on our business and sector strengths to drive innovation, increase productivity and create wealth. This potential was highlighted most effectively by the inaugural Bradford Manufacturing Week last autumn which saw students from more than half the district’s secondary schools take part in more than 3,000 first-hand manufacturing experiences. The accompanying media campaign reached an incredible 22 million people and helped attract the attention of Prime Minister Theresa May who applauded the district’s inspirational efforts to promote this important wealth-creating sector.

Take our globally connected district. We aim to improve our transport infrastructure and digital infrastructure and digital connectivity to strength trading links. Our vision won support from businesses from across the North who are backing our ambitions to better connect Bradford city centre through Northern Powerhouse Rail. Independent research has shown that securing a city centre station on the pan-northern network would more than double the size of the district’s economy over the coming decades. We are delighted to see Transport for the North include the station in its £70bn strategic plan.

Performance-wise, the headline numbers are impressive. These include 4,127 new Companies House registrations, the ninth highest of any city in the UK, a jobs increase of 6,500 new roles, all created by our enterprising private sector, representing an increase of almost five per cent, breaking the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, and an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings to £488.

These are all important milestones and suggest why we are getting more good write-ups, such as Mr Coren’s. In his review of the Waterside Inn at Shipley, the columnist noted the chef’s culinary credentials at The Criterion in London, Le Jules Verne in Paris and Le Louis XV in Monaco and concluded “this place has not just charm but a real touch of class”. That equally applies to Bradford as a whole.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club