By Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership
As an economist working at the North East LEP, one of the questions I’m asked the most is ‘how is the North East economy performing?’
On Tuesday 6 March I had the opportunity to answer that question at the launch of the ‘Our Economy 2018’ report.
More than 200 people joined me, Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, and our panel of speakers to learn more about the current state of the North East economy and to consider how we build our global linkages.
It was a pleasure to see colleagues from across the business community, as well as government departments, local authorities and education at the launch.
We were able to share positive news about the North East economy and update on the good progress that has been made against the Strategic Economic Plan targets. A key highlight is that the number of jobs in the North East has increased by 55,200 since 2014, putting us on track to meet our target of 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.
We are also particularly pleased that the employment rate and economic activity rate have increased – meaning residents are benefiting from the additional job opportunities – and that the gap with England excluding London on these measures has reduced.
The event focused on the North East’s role in the global economy and the importance of international connections. We had the pleasure of hearing from guest speaker Jason Knights, managing director of brand creative agency Blue Kangaroo, about his organisation’s international links and how thinking global has seen his company flourish.
Blue Kangaroo now work with some of the biggest brands in the world, including The Walt Disney Company and Mattel, all from its base in Gateshead.
Our panel discussion saw contributions from Marian Sudbury, Director, Global Operations for the Northern Powerhouse at the Department for International Trade and Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Business at Newcastle University.
We learnt more about the support and advice on offer to North East businesses looking to export and how our region’s universities have built their global connections and welcomed over 17,000 international students to the North East last year.
The North East’s excellent air and sea connectivity was highlighted as being critical for supporting our global connections. In 2016, the North East’s ports handled 5.7m tonnes of freight and Newcastle Airport handled 4.8 million passengers, 76% travelling between Newcastle and international destinations.
A questions and answer session followed with some fantastic debate around the findings in the report and a call to action by Andrew Hodgson for North East businesses to be proud of their achievements and to champion the region on the international stage.
To coincide with the publication of the ‘Our Economy’ report, the North East LEP, in partnership with the North East Combined Authority, has launched the North East Data Hub. This is a digital platform that gathers data from across the region on the economy and transport and allows users to download and compare data in a simple, user-friendly way.
To find out more information about the North East Data Hub, visit www.northeastdatahub.co.uk and for more information about ‘Our Economy 2018’ and to read the report in full, visit www.nelep.co.uk/oureconomy.