OPINION: The year of opportunity

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After an uncertain start, the signs are that 2014 is shaping up to be a year of opportunity for our economy.

Surveys showing business confidence increasing abound, but the annual survey of business leaders’ views by Grant Thornton’s Sheffield office is significant.

It shows the region’s business leaders are twice as optimistic about future prospects as they were a year ago and ready to invest in creating jobs.

Further confirmation of a brighter future will be found next Wednesday when The Star publishes Survey 2014, its annual assessment of how the region has performed and looks at what the future holds.

It answers one of the key concerns revealed in the Grant Thornton survey – finding people with the right skills to fill vacancies.

However, Survey 2014 highlights initiatives that are coming to fruition, including the continued growth of the new University Technical College, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s Training Centre and Sheffield College.

Further plans are afoot to take the AMRC into new territory, which will confirm the region’s place as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

Survey shows the region notching up successes in the creative and digital, legal and financial, transport and commercial property sectors. And in the domestic property field after stalling or declining, house prices are rising again.

There are challenges to meet and opportunities will take time to be realised.

However, in some cases – most notably air transport and nuclear manufacturing – that will give us vital time in which to woo airlines and develop contracts that could run for many years to come.

Some things still depend on Government action – most notably energy policy, which is damaging our steelmakers.

So, while we celebrate the good news of rising confidence, we must also be ready to go into battle to ensure the Sheffield City Region’s strengthening economic recovery is not jeopardised by politicians whose vision sometimes seems to reach no further than the Southern shires.