Final Yorkshire Post article by Dave Baldwin

By Dave Baldwin

Minimum requirement, maximum effort. As chairman, that was my message at the launch of Bradford’s economic growth strategy three years ago. I can safely say that requirement has been met, exceeded even. I think we all knew there would be challenges ahead. But I don’t think anyone expected a pandemic.

Minimum requirement, maximum effort. As chairman, that was my message at the launch of Bradford’s economic growth strategy three years ago. I can safely say that requirement has been met, exceeded even. I think we all knew there would be challenges ahead. But I don’t think anyone expected a pandemic.

Covid-19 doesn’t really diminish our strengths. The strategy identified four key opportunities for Bradford: our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer with unique architecture, heritage and cultural assets, growth potential and global connections. Our work also recognised that promoting closer partnerships between the public and private sector would help to improve opportunities for young people in the district. No changes there.

Before the onset of coronavirus, we were making strong progress against our goals. In the year after launch, the district recorded 4,100 new companies, 6,500 new private sector jobs, growth in weekly workplace earnings and a boost in the number of women from minority backgrounds in employment. That’s some achievement and shows what we can do when everyone’s noses are pointing in the same direction.

That’s one of my mantras. In any organisation, everyone has to understand the big picture and the part they play, whoever they are and whatever walk of life they come from. It is no secret, but it works wonders and these partnerships always pay off. We are an enterprising bunch in Bradford and I am hopeful we will see a stronger than expected recovery. Indeed, research from the University of Bradford has highlighted how a significant minority of companies has reported a positive impact from the pandemic. 

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks is the living embodiment of what can be achieved when there is this unity of purpose. The showcase for schools was initiated by Nick Garthwaite, then Bradford Chamber president, and wholeheartedly supported across our district. This year, it must take place online for obvious reasons but nonetheless I am confident we will inspire thousands more students to consider the wonderful world of industry as a career option.

Another cause I pushed was for ‘Bradvocates’: champions who will fly the flag for our district, near and far, Bradfordians like BBC presenter Anita Rani, pop idol Zayn Malik, cricketer Jonny Bairstow or thriller writer AA Dhand. There are plenty out there and we urge them all to make themselves heard. (I don’t think Bad Boy Chiller Crew, the breakout comedy-rap stars, need much encouragement on that front!)

Our young people need positive role models in business. If you can see it, you can be it. That certainly worked in my case. As a Bradford lad, I remember a former pupil visiting our comprehensive school and telling our class how aspiration and hard work had set him up for a great career. The nice suit and green Jaguar XJS parked outside the school gates caught my eye. If he could do it, why couldn’t I? The seed was planted for my future career as an entrepreneur. Employers should engage with schools if they haven’t already.

You might be wondering at the retrospective nature of this column. In fact, it is my last as chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, our team of organisations including Bradford BID, Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Bradford Council, the University of Bradford and West Yorkshire Combined Authority. After three years in the role, I have decided with a heavy heart to stand down and focus on new challenges. I joined the board in summer 2017 with the goal of making Bradford a better place for everyone who lives and works in the district. I would like to thank my colleagues for giving maximum effort to our cause.

I will sign off with another of my mantras. Do you know how to eat an elephant? Go on, I hear you say. One bite at a time. That’s how. Substitute the elephant for any seemingly insurmountable challenge that needs to be overcome. Remember that. One bite at a time.

• Dave Baldwin was chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and is the new chief executive of the English Football League

Covid-19 doesn’t really diminish our strengths. The strategy identified four key opportunities for Bradford: our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer with unique architecture, heritage and cultural assets, growth potential and global connections. Our work also recognised that promoting closer partnerships between the public and private sector would help to improve opportunities for young people in the district. No changes there.

Before the onset of coronavirus, we were making strong progress against our goals. In the year after launch, the district recorded 4,100 new companies, 6,500 new private sector jobs, growth in weekly workplace earnings and a boost in the number of women from minority backgrounds in employment. That’s some achievement and shows what we can do when everyone’s noses are pointing in the same direction.

That’s one of my mantras. In any organisation, everyone has to understand the big picture and the part they play, whoever they are and whatever walk of life they come from. It is no secret, but it works wonders and these partnerships always pay off. We are an enterprising bunch in Bradford and I am hopeful we will see a stronger than expected recovery. Indeed, research from the University of Bradford has highlighted how a significant minority of companies has reported a positive impact from the pandemic. 

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks is the living embodiment of what can be achieved when there is this unity of purpose. The showcase for schools was initiated by Nick Garthwaite, then Bradford Chamber president, and wholeheartedly supported across our district. This year, it must take place online for obvious reasons but nonetheless I am confident we will inspire thousands more students to consider the wonderful world of industry as a career option.

Another cause I pushed was for ‘Bradvocates’: champions who will fly the flag for our district, near and far, Bradfordians like BBC presenter Anita Rani, pop idol Zayn Malik, cricketer Jonny Bairstow or thriller writer AA Dhand. There are plenty out there and we urge them all to make themselves heard. (I don’t think Bad Boy Chiller Crew, the breakout comedy-rap stars, need much encouragement on that front!)

Our young people need positive role models in business. If you can see it, you can be it. That certainly worked in my case. As a Bradford lad, I remember a former pupil visiting our comprehensive school and telling our class how aspiration and hard work had set him up for a great career. The nice suit and green Jaguar XJS parked outside the school gates caught my eye. If he could do it, why couldn’t I? The seed was planted for my future career as an entrepreneur. Employers should engage with schools if they haven’t already.

You might be wondering at the retrospective nature of this column. In fact, it is my last as chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, our team of organisations including Bradford BID, Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Bradford Council, the University of Bradford and West Yorkshire Combined Authority. After three years in the role, I have decided with a heavy heart to stand down and focus on new challenges. I joined the board in summer 2017 with the goal of making Bradford a better place for everyone who lives and works in the district. I would like to thank my colleagues for giving maximum effort to our cause.

I will sign off with another of my mantras. Do you know how to eat an elephant? Go on, I hear you say. One bite at a time. That’s how. Substitute the elephant for any seemingly insurmountable challenge that needs to be overcome. Remember that. One bite at a time.

• Dave Baldwin was chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and is the new chief executive of the English Football League