Export capital: trading overseas is in our DNA

Bradford’s DIY spirit has always stood it in good stead. My home city is entrepreneurial – as its 35,000 self-employed residents will tell you – hard working and self-sufficient. The business community knows that instead of waiting for others, it’s usually best to get on and do it yourself.

This is especially true of importers and exporters carving out opportunities for themselves around the world. Exporting is in Bradford’s DNA: our annual exports are valued at around £2bn. In 2015, Bradford was named Britain’s export capital after research showed that 86 per cent of small businesses in the city were selling products or services overseas – more than any other city in the country.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 sets out a plan to make Bradford a more vibrant, outward looking, globally connected city. If Britain is to thrive post-Brexit, we need more businesses doing trade overseas.

I think we are leading the national trend; according to the Office for National Statistics, in the year to June 2018 UK exports rose by 4.4 per cent – or £26bn – to £621bn. The services sector grew 2.2 per cent to £278bn, while goods rose by 6.3 per cent to £343bn. The Government is pushing this agenda. In the Budget the Chancellor said that the UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), would see its direct lending facility rise by up to £2bn meaning more financial support available for exporters.

This isn’t only businesses boxing up goods for export – although we have plenty of fantastic firms doing that – but innovative exporters of knowledge and services. Virtual College, based in Ilkley, creates online training and learning management software for organisations. It has trained more than 3 million people in more than 100 countries. Bingley-based Emerald Publishing produces nearly 300 academic journals, 2500 books and 1500 teaching cases which are used around the world. Founder Keith Howard OBE is an inspirational philanthropist in the region, with deep links to the city having worked at Bradford University before founding the firm which now has a global footprint.

There are outstanding companies shipping the region’s goods around the world.  Chemicals giant BASF manufactures more than 250,000 tonnes of chemicals from its massive site at Low Moor, and around 84 per cent of its products go abroad. In my Yorkshire Post column last week, I wrote about Seabrooks and how its well-loved crisps are being sold in Middle East and Australia. Bradford’s Maharaja Textiles has become one of the largest textiles wholesalers in Europe, exporting to Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. I could go on.

As chair of Bradford Economic Partnership, I know that one of the biggest problems for businesses looking to expand overseas is a lack of local knowledge. Different laws, regulations, customs and norms can be difficult to navigate. Throw in a different language and it can feel bewildering.

But local help is at hand. Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership teamed up with private businesses last summer to set up the Export Exchange Patrons scheme. This is a network of local champions who will support businesses to expand into new markets by offering advice.

Chamber International, a Bradford management consultancy firm which helps UK companies to expand abroad, has recently formed partnerships with the British Centres for Business (BCB) in Dubai, which supports UK companies grow in the Middle East; and Resolve, a business based in North Yorkshire and the US, which supports UK firms in North America.

The US is the UK’s biggest export market. According to Chamber International, other top destinations for the Bradford exporters it works with include Turkey, China, India, UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as other nations in centred in the Middle East and Asia.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 points to the region’s trade and family connections beyond the European Union, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe.

This partly reflects Bradford’s diverse population, which is a source of pride and a great asset.  Black and ethnic minorities make up 36 per cent of the city’s population. I see a competitive advantage here for Bradford: we have tens of thousands of personal and family links with people across the world which we can leverage and use to build enterprise.

While the Government is trying to line up post-Brexit trade deals with other nations, our businesses know that they can’t afford to wait. Let’s build on our DIY spirit and do it ourselves.

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

Good news is all around us at the moment

Whatever it is that Nick Garthwaite has for breakfast, I’m having it. The managing director of Bradford chemicals company Christeyns was unstoppable in October: he masterminded the fantastic success of Bradford Manufacturing Week and last week Christeyns bought Clover Chemicals, a Derbyshire manufacturing business, in a tidy bit of business.

Nick is a great advocate for Bradford and I know he will be delighted at the growing momentum in Bradford’s economy. In my Yorkshire Post column last week, I wrote about the success of Bradford Manufacturing Week, Bradford Bulls’ promotion to the Championship and the success of the Business Improvement District (BID), which will mean an additional £2.5m investment in the city centre over the next five years.

It was a hard act to follow, but the good news seems to be all around us with fresh investment into the city. Seabrook, the historic Yorkshire crisp company, was bought by the UK subsidiary of Japanese food giant Calbee. The Bradford business, which employs around 160 people, will continue as normal – only now as part of a multinational business with a record of investment. It means more crisps made in Yorkshire will be sold around the world.

In July 2015, private equity business LDC invested in Seabrook and money was put into improving facilities and expanding to new markets. Bradford’s finest crisps are now sold in the likes of the Middle East, China and Australia. No doubt Seabrook’s new Fire Eaters crisps – billed as the spiciest crisps around – will go down a treat in Tokyo.

More good news came with word that mobility technology company Fleetondemand is creating up to 40 new jobs in Saltaire and Leeds after lining up a £5m investment through the Business Growth Fund (BGF). The Saltaire-based firm, which connects business people to vehicle rental, car leasing and business travel services globally, is expanding and plans to develop new products and boost sales.

These are skilled jobs in an innovative, growing business. They are the type that our region needs if we are to achieve the ambitions set out in the Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030. The strategy sets out a plan to turbocharge the economy and drive innovation, increase productivity and create wealth by building on our strengths in engineering, chemicals, digital technologies, energy, utilities and food manufacture. The news about Fleetondemand, Seabrook and Christeyns plays to these strengths. There are also signs of growth in the region’s drinks manufacture sector too.

EYES Brewing said last month that it was putting down roots in Bradford. EYES, which calls itself the UK’s first wheat-focused brewery, is moving to the former Bradford Brewery building. It was a shame to see Bradford Brewery shut in mid-August, but the building will now be brought back into use. EYES Brewing looked at Leeds for its base but could see Bradford’s potential. The brewery should open by Christmas and I will be stopping in to say hello.

Another clear sign of investor appetite in the region is plans to develop up to 400,000 sq ft of industrial, distribution and office space at a local former water treatment plant. Keyland Developments, which owns the 57-acre site in Oakenshaw, is selling the vast site because it sees demand for space in the regional industrial sector. As many as 800 jobs could be created and planning consent is already secured. It will make a great piece of business for someone.

Taken in isolation, each of these investments are interesting tales. But when put together, they tell a clear story – established businesses expanding, new ventures being formed in our historic heritage buildings and growth opportunities being seized.

As chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, what’s really pleasing is that they reflect both our region’s historic business strengths and point to growth in newer sectors too.  It’s clear – things are happening because people’s noses are pointing in the same direction and momentum is building in our civic and business communities. Members of Bradford’s business community are seizing the day. I wonder what they are all eating for breakfast.

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

Bradford Manufacturing Week is big deal, just as Number 10

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.

We need NPR station in Bradford city centre

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.

Our economic growth has to include everyone

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.

Meet Bradford’s new radicals making waves

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

Now is the right time for Bradford BID

Say it quietly, but good times could be just around the corner at Odsal. The Bradford Bulls are being talked about for the right reasons again as they eye promotion to the Championship. The city is backing their bid for rugby league glory and there’s optimism at their home ground. Everyone’s fingers are crossed.

Andrew Chalmers, chairman and co-owner of the Bulls, has done a great rebuilding job. Despite his packed schedule, he recently took time to urge Bradford city centre businesses and organisations to get behind another major bid in the city this autumn.

The Business Improvement District (BID) is an ambitious scheme to raise and invest £2.5m in the city centre in the next five years. Businesses and organisations in the BID area would pay a small levy which would be pooled and invested in specific projects to deliver tangible, sustained improvements in the centre. Chalmers is backing the Bradford BID because investment in the city is good for the Bulls, and vice-versa.

A levy of up to 1.25 per cent is being considered to support four so-called ‘pillars’ – safe, clean, alive and promoted – to ensure security and safety in the city; make it clean and welcoming, encourage more events and entertainment on the streets; and promote the centre properly. Investments would be targeted to make Bradford more vibrant and attractive to drive footfall, spending and investment and support organisations and businesses.

There are more than 300 BIDs currently running the UK. Readers of The Yorkshire Post will probably know that BIDs have been set up in locations as varied as Leeds, Keighley, York and Halifax. But it would be wrong to see this BID as simply a case of ‘Now it’s Bradford’s turn’. Every town and city has its own unique history, needs and stages of development.

A BID in Bradford might have been put together before now, but, as chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I’m clear that now is the right time. A huge amount of work has gone into understanding the opportunities – and challenges – facing Bradford and we’ve drawn up a clear plan – the Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 to 2030 – to help the city achieve its incredible potential for the benefit of both Bradford and the North more widely. The BID is one part of a bigger picture and plan.

But it’s vital that we go down this road with our eyes open. Let’s be honest – since they were introduced in 2004, not all of BIDs have been resounding successes. Businesses in some BID towns and cities have complained that they are not transparent and that bigger companies have more of a say in how the money raised is spent.

But the team behind the Bradford BID has done its homework and taken the learning of what’s worked and what’s not elsewhere. This BID proposal was drawn up after extensive consultation with Bradford’s businesses and it’s custom-made for the city’s needs.

There also plenty of BID success stories. A House of Commons paper last year showed that the main benefits of BIDs are that businesses get to decide what they want for the area; that they have a voice in issues in the area; and that money raised through the BID can only be invested in the BID area. There’s also evidence of benefits for business including increased footfall, better promotion and networking opportunities.

We need to be open to new ways to regenerate and improve the centre and the BID does this by bringing local authorities, businesses and organisations together. Amazing things can happen when everyone’s noses are pointed in the same direction.

The BID won’t happen by itself. More than 630 city centre businesses and organisations need to vote to realise this ambition. Voting opened on September 13 and ends on October 11. If you’re one of the number, get out and vote.

One of Bradford’s genuine strengths is its close-knit business community. If the BID goes ahead and there are any bumps in the road, folk can sit down and sort them out.

So the next few weeks promise to be exciting. The Bulls have given themselves a chance of promotion thanks to hard work and everyone at the club buying into the vision. I hope that city businesses will also buy into the BID vision and vote ‘Yes’. If both bids succeed, it will be a great boost for the city. My fingers are crossed.

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

Businesses have duty to give back to community

When Amazon’s stock market value hit $1 trillion last month, you might have expected a chorus of praise. But as some celebrated its historic achievement in joining Apple in the $1 trillion business club, others complained about its dominance and voiced concern about its workers’ rights and wages. For all its success, Amazon gets the bad headlines too.

Every company comes in for criticism at some point. It comes with the territory for bosses making tough decisions about hiring and firing and for some companies perceived to be putting profits above all else. If the criticism is deserved, you take it on the chin.

But many businesses make under-appreciated contributions to society through providing meaningful employment, supporting the economy and operating responsibly. A large and growing number also give something back by doing good work in their communities.

This summer, Bradford accountancy group Naylor Wintersgill signed up to the Give Bradford 100 Club. This fantastic scheme enables individuals and businesses to support the region’s disadvantaged communities through a £1,000 annual membership fee. 100 Club members include Leeds Bradford Airport, Yorkshire Building Society and individuals including Nick Garthwaite, President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, and Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council.

At a time when the corporate sector is closely scrutinised, more companies need to show heart and shout about their good work. Schemes like the 100 Club let them do their bit and demonstrate their commitment.

Giving something back is nothing new: walk around Bradford and look at the architectural legacy of industrial giants like Titus Salt and Samuel Lister. I would love to see a new generation of philanthropists putting up stunning buildings in my home city. But there are more realistic ways to help.

There’s a fancy name for a company doing its bit for society: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Many companies will already be doing CSR without really realising it. It ranges from simple things like charity fundraisers in the office and bosses letting staff take regular time off to lend a hand to a charity or a community scheme. I’ve seen the camaraderie among staff that this brings out. CSR really takes off when it becomes part of the way a business operates and when it forms genuine connection with its community.

Larger companies have more complex, ambitious CSR agendas. Provident Financial works with Participate Projects, a local charity which provides support and advice to third sector organisations. Provident supports cultural life by backing the Bradford Literature Festival. Supermarket giant Morrisons’s CSR activity last year included supporting a national charity to redistribute meals to those in need and working with 400 community groups to redistribute more than 3.4 million surplus food products.

You may have heard of ‘Raising the Bar’, a scheme backed by West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which celebrates the work that companies do in the community. At its glittering awards ceremony last year, the Broadway Shopping Centre won in the economy category for bringing new business to the city and law firm Gordons won in the education category for its apprenticeship scheme. The 2018 awards ceremony is in November – if your firm does good in the community, consider an application.

Yorkshire Building Society deserves an honourable mention. In May, it won the Corporate Social Responsibility Team of the Year category at this year’s Third Sector Business Charity Awards. The society delivers financial literacy programmes in Yorkshire’s schools, supports local communities as well as a project which helps homeless young people move to their own homes.

It’s great that Naylor Wintersgill has joined the 100 Club, although I’m not surprised. After all, it’s in keeping with how it does business: its staff choose a different charity for the firm to support each year; this year they chose Cancer Support Yorkshire.

When the 100 Club launched in November 2017, its aim was to get 100 members to join. Numbers are rising, but more are needed. Companies will always have their critics, but the business community has so many great stories about the good work it does. If we want them to be heard, we need to start shouting about it.

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

Our no-nonsense Yorkshire approach to technology and AI

When The Terminator film came out in 1984 it was pure science fiction. One android’s relentless pursuit of an unlucky heroine as robots tried to wipe out the human race was entertaining but about as believable as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting.

Nearly 25 years later and it’s still make-believe, but now with a sting in the tail.

Last month, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that we are seeing a revolution in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) – in plain English, machines which can solve problems and learn. But Brin, president of Google’s parent firm, Alphabet, warned: “Such powerful tools also bring with them new questions and responsibilities. How will they affect employment across different sectors… How might they manipulate people? Are they safe?”

A cynic might say that in the wake of the recent Facebook data-sharing scandal, this was part of Big Tech’s effort to regain damaged public trust. Even so, Brin has a point: technology is everywhere and is changing rapidly. We can’t just grin and hope for the best.

Anyone in business will tell you that a successful company or organisation has to be innovative. Stand still and you risk being left behind. We shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed by this. Bradford, Yorkshire and the North were built on innovation. And if we didn’t invent it, you can be sure we were among the first movers in adoption. Bradford led the way in the manufacturing of TV sets and operated the first regular motorised bus services.

The names of Bradford’s Victorian industrial giants like Titus Salt, Henry Ripley and Samuel Lister still echo on our streets and in the buildings that bear their names. Bradford gave the world great innovators in other fields like Margaret McMillan, the nursery education pioneer, and the Brontë sisters, the literary sensations. Radical in their own way, their impact is still felt today.

As the decades passed, many other innovators followed in their footsteps. Today, to name but a few, we have the turbo-charged BorgWarner, Denso Marston, inventor of the QR code, and Christeyns, pushing the boundaries in the science of detergents. New names are coming to the fore, like internet and software business EXA Networks, 3D printing firm Filamentive and Produmax, an aerospace engineering company.

Perhaps AI will be able to predict if any of these businesses will one day be as successful as Pace or Google. But what is clear is that the region’s top innovators enjoy a worldwide reputation; Bradford’s Redfern Travel was acquired by Australia’s Corporate Travel Management in 2016 after it caught someone’s eye down under.

In such rapidly changing times, we have to ensure that people don’t get left behind. Yes, this is a creative, entrepreneurial district and that may make us more resilient to the automation challenge, but we aren’t complacent. In my Yorkshire Post column last week I spoke about Bradford City Council’s work to encourage young people to become innovators through initiatives like the Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE). We need to support working people in their 40s and 50s too. Upskilling is critical: the percentage of Bradford’s working age population without any qualifications is higher than the national average, and the percentage of our working age population qualified to degree level and above is lower than the national average.

A no-nonsense Yorkshire approach to tackling this is needed. The Bradford District Economic Strategy 2018-2030 sets out a plan to improve the skills of 48,000 city residents to NVQ 3 – the equivalent of two or more A-Levels – or above. But the country needs to put its hand in its pocket and invest in peoples’ education and skills to make this happen. We need also more control over what is happening in the city and to simplify local employment and skills provision to meet the needs of employers.

This is made more pressing by the fact that jobs that we take for granted today may not be here tomorrow. In 2015, the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane – a Yorkshireman – warned that 15 million UK jobs could go as roles become automated.

We need to be optimistic but realistic about meeting these challenges. So enjoy watching The Terminator 6 when it arrives next year but take note of what Google’s co-founder says: AI is transforming the world. Let’s grasp the nettle and let Bradford determine its own fate.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley FC.

Get well soon Dynamo, you’re one of our own

When Tottenham Hotspur scored their third goal at Turf Moor in December, the fans sang for their hat-trick hero: “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own”. As chief executive of Burnley FC I was disappointed to lose that day. But I understand the Spurs fans’ pride in a player who many see as being like them – he grew up close to White Hart Lane and always supported the club.

I feel a similar sense of pride in my home city, Bradford. Bradford City FC, where I worked for seven years, might not have a player to match Harry Kane just now. But a world-famous illusionist is one of our own. Dynamo, who entertains millions with his amazing magic, grew up here and always talks up Bradford. In June 2016, he backed our bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North and spoke about Bradford’s positive impact on his career.

Dynamo has faced his share of adversity. Slightly-built and shy as a child, he was bullied and suffered from Crohn’s disease. Magic was an escape – he would stay inside for hours and practice tricks. His confidence grew as he developed a unique style of magic. After recovering from a spell in hospital with Crohn’s disease, he decided to give magic everything he had. Trick by trick, show by show, he worked his way up and became a superstar.

Like his fans around the world, I was sorry to learn that Dynamo is currently unwell. This month, he opened up about the toll that Crohn’s disease is having on his health and his ability to perform magic. But there was no self-pity from this young man. He vowed to get better and to put his efforts into helping refugee children who had fled war-torn Syria while recovering. He is also diversifying by learning new tricks and adapting how he performs.

Diversification and innovation are crucial in business. As chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I know that we must be willing to adapt and change ways of working. According to the Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook 2018 report, 24 per cent of current jobs in Bradford are in occupations that are likely to shrink by 2030. Just 10 per cent of current jobs are in occupations that are likely to grow. The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030 sets out how the city can reposition itself in the global economy by drawing on our enterprising and growing population, supporting innovative businesses and our knowledge institutions, building public and private partnerships and the regeneration of our towns and cities.

Attracting and supporting entrepreneurs to set up in Bradford is crucial. Entrepreneurs identify a talent, product or service which will sell and build it at scale. I see Dynamo as an entrepreneur as well as an entertainer. When starting out, he identified his talent but needed help to get going. He visited the Prince’s Trust charity, got advice and inspiration and – crucially – a small grant which he used to make a DVD to showcase his talents. It was a shrewd marketing investment. He built scale by uploading films of his magic to the internet.

The UK could be doing more to encourage enterprise. Bradford is trying – the council has set up Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE), which help young people gain qualifications, skills and experience that they need and which local businesses want. The curriculum is up-to-date and relevant having been jointly developed by schools, colleges and local businesses.

The Prince’s Trust also does its bit. Its Mosaic Enterprise Challenge links teams of students aged 11 to 16 with mentors to compete with other schools in running a business. In March, Bradford’s Dixons Kings Academy won the Yorkshire Regional Final of the 2018 challenge. The school won the regional finals in 2016 and 2017. The national final is on May 16; I hope it’s third time lucky.

I wish Dynamo a speedy recovery. I remember when he performed magic tricks for Bradford City fans queuing up for tickets to the Capital One Cup semi-final against Aston Villa in December 2012. He appeared out of nowhere to entertain the fans, but I wasn’t surprised – after all, he’s one of our own.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley FC.