Former Obama advisor to visit Sheffield in new economic plan

Economic and cities expert Bruce Katz is to visit Sheffield
Economic and cities expert Bruce Katz is to visit Sheffield
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A former advisor to President Obama will visit Sheffield as part of a new economic project to sell the city on the global stage.

Sheffield’s International Economic Commission - announced by Sheffield Council today - is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

It will aim to gather expert views on the city’s economic plans and improve its reputation - and in the long run attract more investment.

US economic and cities expert Bruce Katz, former advisor to presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, is the first delegate to visit Sheffield for in-depth research in January and will focus on the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and surrounding manufacturing park.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business at Sheffield Council, met Mr Katz at a conference in Cannes and said the scheme would have ‘concrete outcomes’ rather than just being a concept.

He added: “What people always say is that Sheffield doesn’t shout enough about what it is good at and they want to see some ambition - this is exactly what this is.

“You get this right and you get better quality jobs for people that are higher paid, more business rates and council tax so more investment in services - in every way this does matter to people on the ground.”

Other ‘charettes’ - or intense periods of activity - with different experts later in the year will focus on the city centre including its proposed retail quarter and Sheffield’s outdoor economic strategy.

Council and Creative Sheffield leaders say they want the delegates to act as ‘critical friends’ looking in from the outside and ‘immersing’ themselves in the city.

It is hoped this will help Sheffield city region to build beneficial relationships with other cities across the world

Coun Bramall added: “It’s about getting the very best people there are to look at our plans and say are there things missing, things we could do better, others that we should be doing.

“We are not waiting for people to come and tell us what to do, we have been working on these things for a while, it is about getting an international perspective.”

A report will compile the findings within a year. Coun Bramall said the costs would be ‘miminal’ and paid for by various partners.

Mr Katz, vice president of think tank the Brookings Institute, is not charging fees or his airfare.

The internationally renowned policymaker will be hosted by Sheffield and Rotherham Councils and the University of Sheffield.

He said: “I’ve heard great things about the Sheffield City Region and particularly its research-led Advanced Manufacturing capability, so I’m keen to come and see it for myself.”

Also in the delegation from the United States is Julie Wagner, senior fellow at the Brooking Institute and Kelly Kline, economic development director of the City of Fremont, California.

During the three-day charrette from January 14 to 16 next year, Mr Katz will meet influential business leaders in the region, visit the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and deliver a public lecture in partnership with the University of Sheffield at Sheffield’s recently-restored historic Cathedral.

Professor Keith Ridgway, Director of AMRC with Boeing, said: “We are pleased to welcome Mr Katz to the AMRC and look forward to working with everyone to position the City Region as a global force in manufacturing.”

Coun Dominic Beck, cabinet member for business growth and regeneration at Rotherham Council, added: “I am looking forward welcoming to Bruce Katz and his team and sharing his insight into how we can work together across Sheffield City Region to maximise the benefits in terms of jobs, growth and prosperity from the world-leading manufacturing expertise clustered around Rotherham.”

The Centre for Cities will be supporting the International Economic Commission, providing advice and insight on how to maximise Sheffield’s opportunities.

Acting chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Sheffield is a fantastic city with huge potential to take a more prominent role in driving national economic prosperity.

“I have no doubt that Bruce’s visit, bringing an enormous amount of expertise and experience, will represent an important step forward for Sheffield – one that I hope other cities will also be able to learn from and emulate.”