What’s holding Manchester back from becoming the UK’s greatest city?

Andy Burnham, metro mayor for Greater Manchester

Andy Burnham, metro mayor for Greater Manchester

Since the days of the industrial revolution, Manchester has played a key business, economic and political role in shaping the United Kingdom as it is today.

The city itself has a population approaching three million and currently has the third largest economy out of the UK’s major cities, after London and Birmingham.

Over the last year the region has seen seismic political and economic change, with the introduction of a high-profile metro mayor instigating this period of growth.

Following 16 years as a Labour MP in nearby Leigh, former party leader candidate Andy Burnham took on the role of Greater Manchester’s inaugural metro mayor in May.

Each of the six regions has been given different remits and expectations, depending on their apparent strength and weaknesses.

Burnham was given the first term, into the 30-year, £1 billion scheme with the aim of improving the region’s infrastructure, education and transport.

Challenging role

Seven months later, Burnham reflects on the job so far. He comments: “It’s a challenging role but I’m able to make real and immediate changes that improve the lives of people here, which is incredibly rewarding.

“We’ve already been able to reduce fares for young people on buses and we’ve started to distribute money from my Homelessness Fund which has helped to open a shelter in Cheetham Hill. We’re just getting started and there is a lot of work to do but I’ve not regretted my decision to leave Westminster once.”

In terms of Burnham’s remit, expectations and vision for the region, he comments: “We want to make Greater Manchester the best place to live, work and get on in life. A place where children can achieve their hopes and ambitions, where homes are decent and affordable, and where no one is forced to sleep rough.

“Greater Manchester is going to be the 21st century industrial capital of the United Kingdom, leading the way for the digital industry and green living, and supporting businesses so they can grow and help to provide secure, decently-paid jobs. Reliable and affordable public transport, along with less congestion on our roads, will help enable this.”

Despite Burnham’s positive outlook, the region does have some stubborn challenges that it needs to overcome.

One of these is ensuring the population have the skills required to carry out the jobs of the future.

He comments: “I think the economic success of Greater Manchester and the North West will really depend on how successfully we improve the skills of local people. For business to grow and thrive they need highly-skilled talent available and we want people here to be able to access those high-skilled, high-wage jobs.

“That’s why I’m committed to working with businesses to overcome the skills gap by matching our skills training to the needs of employers in Greater Manchester. As part of this effort, we are developing an enhanced UCAS-style application system for apprenticeships.

“This will guarantee that we only offer quality apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities, alongside other high-quality training and skills development.  I want businesses to help shape this system to make it fit for Greater Manchester.”

Business hub

Manchester is also looking to make itself a hub for businesses from all sectors.

Manchester is the fastest-growing city-region outside of London, with a regional economy of over £140 billion.

With the airport flying to-and-from over 200 destinations, almost 100,000 active students and over 33,000 graduates every year – there are a lot of opportunities for businesses and employment.

Burnham explains further: “Greater Manchester is one of the most exciting places to be right now and I want to work with businesses to create a thriving and productive economy in all parts of our city region.

“We have a strong track record of supporting and encouraging businesses. This is a place of opportunity.  Our strong civic leadership has helped create successful partnerships between the private and public sector for decades.”

One of these companies setting up in Manchester is networking hardware company, Cisco.

In association with the Manchester Science Partnerships, they have opened their own tech hub, known as Mi-IDEA.

This new post-accelerator centre, based in the heart of the city’s innovation district, aims to help digital and tech start-ups become catalysts for co-innovation between businesses, academic institutions and local government.

Mi-IDEA will focus on developing the next generation of entrepreneurs and encouraging businesses to launch and scale up. It is located in the Bright Building, a new 70,000 sq.ft development in Manchester’s Science Park and provides an insight into the city’s digital ambition.

Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister, comments: “Greater Manchester is home to world-class digital innovators and entrepreneurs and I am delighted to have been at the opening of its latest success story, Mi-IDEA and the Bright Building, which will focus on supporting collaborative innovation in Greater Manchester and across the Northern Powerhouse.

“The Government understands just how important digital and creative sectors are to ensuring the North, and the UK more widely, remains a global powerhouse of digital economic activity.”

Scot Gardner, Chief Executive of Cisco UK & Ireland, adds: “Innovation is fundamental to the future of any digital economy, but it cannot prosper in isolation.

“Mi-IDEA is a hive of co-innovation, fostering collaboration between industry, government and academia. We’re excited to find out what it will bring to Manchester and look forward to seeing the start-ups at the centre flourish as we expand our relationship with MSP.”

Stoford Icon Industrial launch

Making waves

It is not just the high-tech companies that are making waves in the region.

Manchester-based mechanical contractor, Icon Industrial, recently launched a new £100m warehouse and logistics development.

Icon Industrial is a strategic joint venture between Stoford Developments and TPG Real Estate. Both recently received planning consent for a one million sq. ft, fully-serviced site development.

Dan Gallagher, joint managing director of Stoford Developments, comments: “This is a landmark development for the North West and for Icon Industrial.

“It marks the exciting first development for the joint venture and presents potential occupiers with an excellent opportunity to have a unit built to their specific requirements, in a first-class location, at the very heart of the Northern Powerhouse.”

The site provides access to Junction 6 of the M56, Manchester Airport and the Greater Manchester region. Air and rail connections at the World Freight Terminal are also nearby.

The area is established as a prime North-West logistics site, which is home to other major occupiers including Amazon, Fedex, UPS and DHL.

With these new, high-tech, high-value businesses moving to the area, Manchester has clearly become a beacon for success.

Burnham talks about what he thinks makes the city region special: “Greater Manchester is strong across many areas of business but it stands out particularly clearly as a leading financial, professional and business services centre, employing more than 324,000 people and contributing £16.2 billion to the local economy each year.

“Another strong sector is the digital industries. Since becoming metro mayor, I have held a digital summit – which brought together the brightest minds from the tech industry – to make sure that Greater Manchester can become a world-leading digital hub.

“The region is already home to Europe’s second largest creative, digital and media hub, with more than 54,000 people employed, and this sets us on the way to achieving our aims.

“With Media City UK home to the BBC and ITV, and Greater Manchester’s reputation for ground-breaking animation and CGI, the region is already the place to be, digitally speaking.

“Elsewhere, we have strengths in advanced engineering, manufacturing, life sciences and bio-medical industries. Our region is, and will continue to be, a global pioneer.”

Watching the city grow

One of the businesses that have witnessed the city’s evolution is financial and legal recruitment specialists, Sellick Partnership.

Having recently reported a record year, Sellick Partnership managing director Jo Sellick has reason to celebrate Manchester’s growing success.

With all business areas exceeding expectations, audited accounts show that turnover grew by 10% to £38.8 million, with net fee income also growing by 6% to an impressive £5.8 million. Both of these figures are at their highest since the company’s formation 15 years ago.

Sellick Partnership are also proving that the professional services recruitment market remains strong despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Indeed, over 270 permanent placements made across the 2016/17 period, up from 249 in the previous year.

On Manchester’s evolution, Sellick said: “The last fifteen years have been booming for Manchester. Sir Howard Bernstein was instrumental in transforming it into a great city, with a clear vision.

“It’s now the second city in the UK and initiatives around transport and education have made an enormous difference. Manchester has one of the biggest student populations in Europe and this is generating wealth for the city and creating a real vibrancy.

“I’m optimistic for Manchester too: if you look at the skyline, you can see all the cranes and development work that is happening. The future is bright.”

That optimism is, unsurprisingly, shared by Burnham and he is looking for the city to continue to grow.

He said: “My door will always be open to businesses who want to innovate and drive growth in Greater Manchester. Together I believe we can make Greater Manchester the modern industrial capital of the UK once again.”

It is not just business that has seen recent success in Manchester.

Football first

With both Manchester United and Manchester City battling it out at the top of the Premier League, it is football that often takes centre stage in the city. This tourism provides a steady income stream and supply-side benefits.

United have long been amongst the top three most valuable sports teams on the planet, but the ‘noisy neighbours’ have taken up the challenge to test the Red Devils’ commercial dominance.

Recently, in an unprecedented announcement, City announced a £10 million partnership with Amazon to steam the behind-the-scenes stories that are going on in Pep Guardiola’s team.

Heather Schuster, Head of Unscripted Amazon Originals, comments: “This new Amazon Prime Original series will give Prime members extraordinary insight into Manchester City – the top English Premier League Football team and one of the most exciting and respected teams in the world.

“The story behind the coaches and players is fascinating and we are very excited to work with the Manchester City team to deliver an exclusive viewing experience for our Prime members.”

This new series will take viewers on a behind-the-scenes journey through the whole of Manchester City’s 2017/18 season – from the state-of-the-art training facilities at the City Football Academy, to interviews with the manager and executive meetings.

The series will launch exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in 2018. Prime members will be able to stream the series via the Amazon Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online at amazon.co.uk.