Is region fit for the year of Olympics?

John Warner: Managing partner at Barber Harrison & Platt
John Warner: Managing partner at Barber Harrison & Platt
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Howard Ringrose’s article shows that encouraging progress has been made by the region’s 100 largest companies over the 12 months covered by our survey.

This has, however, been followed by national statistics confirming that we are officially in a double dip recession. So what is the true state of health of our local economy?

The fragile nature of consumer confidence, the major difficulties being experienced in the retail and construction sector and the recently heightened uncertainties in the Eurozone do not provide much optimism, nor does the coalition Government seem to have grasped the growth nettle that is required to counteract the necessary austerity measures.

The ham-fisted delivery of some of the measures in the Budget do not give much confidence in a coherent growth strategy for the rest of their term.

I have, however, always been of the glass half full mentality.

My football team have at last rewarded my faith this season by achieving automatic promotion and I am similarly confident about the local economy.

What is the basis for this optimism?

On a micro level, my firm’s manufacturing client base continues to perform well, helped particularly by strength within the oil and gas sectors, a view supported by the local results of the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Growth Survey for the quarter to March 2012.

The recent Global Manufacturing Festival and Made in Sheffield Dinner showcased again the manufacturing strength we have in the Sheffield City Region. These two events illustrate that the region is, at last, prepared to shout about its strengths.

What is particularly encouraging is the initiatives forming part of the strategy for the region formulated by the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Key growth sectors have been identified, Enterprise Zones with enhanced capital allowances have been established and a significant bid is being prepared for a group of ambitious local businesses to benefit from the next tranche of the Regional Growth Fund.

On top of all this, the continued exciting developments on the Advanced Manufacturing Park are a beacon for the region.

It was also gratifying in Olympic year to see seven of our local businesses on the podium for the Queen’s Awards.

I believe this to be a real indication of the excellence we have in the Sheffield City region and, yes, I do believe that in our key sectors we are in a healthy state to grow and develop this year and beyond.