Both the public & private sector need to work together if we are to grow our city's region construction industry

Posted by John Sutcliffe

John Sutcliffe is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Surveyor who was appointed as Chair of the Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce in September 2012.

Tue 17th, Feb

The announcement that there could be 5,000 new jobs in the North West’s Construction industry came out a few weeks ago, the same week the Chamber hosted a Construction Breakfast where we heard from Liverpool City Council about some of the developments in the city both now and in the future. There is much to be positive about in the industry and Liverpool’s construction sector is in a far better position now than at any point since the 2007 recession.

After all, it’s important to remember the economic downturn of the recession hit the industry hard and resulted in many skilled and experienced professional and tradespeople leaving to find work elsewhere.

But things are looking up, especially for the North West & business people like myself and the variety of construction projects that are currently underway is telling of the city’s growing economy including an increased contribution from the private sector. I’m encouraged to learn that the public sector continue to be committed to driving large investment projects. As well as the new Royal Hospital and Alder Hey, a further £118m will be invested in The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and I’m delighted Chamber member Laing O’Rourke has won its contract.

However, it’s important that we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Take a look at the results of our recent Quarterly Economic Survey, for example. Yes, it’s promising that investment from the public sector fosters clear aspirations but confidence levels for businesses could be better. Fees for construction consultancy are still low as the economy is recovering and there is the issue of material shortages, particular bricks and steel.

Similarly, there are also broader issues that need to be addressed. Following the Chamber event, it got me thinking about the impact of the Atlantic Gateway and how it has the potential to become a major brand to influence private sector investment whilst becoming a crucial element to the Northern Powerhouse. I hope it will represent an opportunity for cross sector collaboration: private sector construction businesses working hand in hand with government to inform policy and deliver sustainable projects to stimulate economic growth and further funding opportunities.

If you're a supplier to the infrastructure sector currently looking for opportunities, Business in the Community are running an "Access the Buyer" event, next Tuesday at Merseytravel.

Read More
Leave a comment

I had a bit of a shock the other day when I realised that hardly anyone under 30 can remember a time when you could fly direct from Liverpool to Heathrow Airport.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sat 07th, Feb

It really doesn’t seem like something that should be lost in the mists of time, but for many people it is.

It was in 1992, during the recession that followed the first Gulf war, that British Midland pulled the plug, having run five flights every weekday for about four years.

The service lost money overall but, until the Gulf war, passenger numbers were growing at 8% per annum and viability was in sight, thanks in no small part to the loyalty of the business community – business travellers accounted for 58% per cent of the traffic.

The main reason the route was pulled was that British Midland wanted to use its precious London slots for new European services. Even in those days, Heathrow was struggling to cope with its own growth.

Other airlines have tried since to run a London service to London City Airport, Gatwick or Stansted, but none have lasted because none of those airports is a major world hub like Heathrow.

KLM had a go at running a service from Liverpool John Lennon Airport as a spoke to its Schipol hub, but it only lasted two years until the economic downturn killed it off in 2011.

Currently, LJLA has no connections with any major hub airport and no direct flights to London.

Those are two serious gaps in the city region’s connectivity and there is only one way that they will ever be plugged: expansion of Heathrow Airport.

There is huge pent-up demand for such a service. In 2013, more than 1.1 million passengers from LJLA’s core catchment area flew from other UK airports on connecting flights to Heathrow.

That’s why the Chamber is supporting LJLA in lobbying the Airports Commission to come out in favour of more runway capacity at Heathrow.

Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle are also making the same argument for similar reasons.

A direct route from Heathrow to LJLA will make it easier for potential investors to get here. Meanwhile, the absence of direct flights is bound to make them wonder why the city doesn’t seem to merit an air link with the capital.

As far as Liverpool and Merseyside are concerned, the expansion of Heathrow can’t come soon enough. 

Leave a comment

Omega, the distribution park on the M62, has sprung out of the ground in little more than a year.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sun 25th, Jan

Omega, the distribution park on the M62, has sprung out of the ground in little more than a year.

Driving past and seeing the huge sheds gleaming in the winter sun, I can’t help thinking how Liverpool and Manchester are being dawn closer together into a single metropolis.

Talk of city region devolution and One North also suggests a blurring of the lines between cities which have, until now, maintained strong and separate identities.

The idea is to combine the various attributes of the Northern cities to create a single powerhouse that can counterbalance London’s domination of the UK economy. 

It’s a worthwhile aim and we support it, but it’s worth pondering over the implications of it coming to pass. For example, would every city benefit in equal measure or would there be winners and losers?

Although many professional firms have concentrated their North West operations in Manchester over the past couple of decades, several still have a big Liverpool presence, notably the major law firms.

Would the drive towards a single northern powerhouse make them feel obliged to concentrate all their resources in one place? And might Liverpool and Leeds lose out to Manchester as a result?

It’s certainly a possibility but it doesn’t necessarily have to work out that way. To prevent it, Liverpool must have a vision of what it can bring to the Northern Powerhouse that other places cannot.

In fact, that vision – and the distinctive attributes which underpin it – will be all the more important as cities merge into a single economic unit.

It’s easy to think of some things Liverpool has that Manchester doesn’t: car manufacturing, a port capable of handling post-Panamax vessels (when Liverpool 2 opens later this year), and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

What else would you put in the list? Tell me by leaving a comment below.

Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but certain rules for making a good start have been drummed into me (even if I don’t always observe them).

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sat 17th, Jan

Examples:

Before starting to assemble flat pack furniture, read the instructions and check that all the parts are present.

When it’s cold, it’s a good idea to let the car’s engine warm up for a minute or two before driving off.

But what about starting a business? It’s impossible to come up with a single piece of advice that covers every eventuality. So what are the rules that new entrepreneurs should follow? 

The best way to find out is to talk to people who have done it and learn from their experience. That’s what business owners do on Spark Up, the Chamber’s programme for helping start-ups to grow and create wealth and jobs.

They get a mentor. Somebody who been through the mill, round the block a few times and has got the T-shirt. Cliches aside, mentors also remember that they were once newbie start-up entrepreneurs, and they want to pass on what they have learned.

As well as providing coaching and advice at workshops and masterclasses, they introduce our Spark Up candidates to networking events and business opportunities. 

It’s rewarding and inspiring work. So much so that our mentors are often the best advocates for the programme and spread the word throughout the business community.

Mentors commit a minimum of four hours per week but many do more. Perhaps that’s because they have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to create the next generation of business talent here on Merseyside.

People like the finalists from our pilot programme last year: Amie Russell and Carl Brown, founders of vintage hairdressers Russell and Brown’s; Alissa Koopal, who created baby products range Izzy Melody; and the eventual winner Andrew Milne, the man behind Triketastic, which takes tourists on trips around Liverpool in VW Beetle trikes.

If you would like to join Spark Up, as a candidate entrepreneur or as a mentor, contact me at sparkup@liverpoolchamber.org.uk 

It’s time to get started.

Leave a comment

It’s a pity that the debate over devolution for Merseyside is dominated by reports of infighting between politicians.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sun 11th, Jan

Instead, the focus should be on the huge opportunity that these proposed changes will create.

The issue is not just about politics, it’s also about economics in its purest form – decisions about the allocation of resources.

Central government spends hundreds of millions of pounds in this region.  Some is spent well and some not so well.

Common sense dictates that spending decisions are best made by people with a strong understanding of local needs.

For example, it makes sense to ask local businesses in some detail about the type of skills they look for before deciding how to spend money on youth training.

A devolved Merseyside city region would gain control hundreds of millions of pounds of public spending on business support, housing, health and social care, skills, transport, and getting the economically inactive back into work.

But the city region’s leaders need to listen and take notice of the views of business people before they make spending decisions.

The Chamber is your voice in this important debate and we will be making sure the politicians hear us loud and clear. So let us know what you think. Post your message to the region’s council leaders by commenting on this blog.

A devolved Merseyside would control hundreds of £ms of public spending. Post your message to the region’s council leaders by commenting

Read More
Leave a comment