NWDA: Business Class
Liverpool has silenced its critics by winning the European Capital of Culture award this year. But Liverpool, and the UK’s Northwest as a whole, is about far more than culture – it is also about business. Garry Flood speaks to Ssteven Broomhead, the man charged with sustaining the city’s success.
If you are one of those sceptics who regard the phrase ‘Liverpool, capital of culture’ as a contradiction in terms, you must be having a hard time dealing with the highly successful debut this year of that self-same home of the Beatles as European Capital of Culture.
And Liverpool winning that prestigious prize is not the only thing that might silence the city’s critics. They might also be surprised to learn that the UK’s Northwest is home to Europe’s 12th largest economy, worth £111 billion, that Sony, Jaguar and Kodak all have bases on Merseyside, and that Europe’s largest retail and leisure development, led by property developer Grosvenor, costing £920 million and covering 42 acres of the city centre, is being constructed.
The depressed 1980s are very much a thing of the past in Liverpool and the Northwest these days, although getting where the region is today hasn’t been easy or just happened by accident.
NORTHWEST REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
It is the job of organisations such as the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) to spearhead the ongoing drive to attract investment and create opportunity for the area. It is also the day-to-day brief for the NWDA’s leader, its chief executive, Steven Broomhead.
‘We are bringing strong project management and negotiating skills as well as a very keen commercial focus to make this region even more successful than it is now,’ says Broomhead.
Broomhead and his team are doing this, not just by liaising with a range of local and global political and business leaders, but by the judicious use of funding – £600 million annual investment capacity in projects and programmes tailored to boost the Northwest.
However, funding, useful as it is, is just part of the NWDA’s strategy. ‘The real benefit we can bring,’ says Broomhead, ‘is fostering partnership. We also need to be real problem solvers, looking to remove obstacles, meet challenges and make things happen.’
So what does Broomhead see as the key challenges for 2008 and beyond? ‘One, working to maintain the sustained economic growth we have seen,’ he says. ‘Two, working much more closely with local government – here NWDA’s relationship with Liverpool Capital of Culture, of which it is a major sponsor, is an excellent example of what is possible. And third, continue to find ways to enhance and develop the overall image of the Northwest, nationally and internationally.’
Broomhead adds that part of his remit as a chief executive in 2008 is to look for ways to improve the efficiency of the NWDA as an organisation, especially in terms of better metrics and improved long-term evaluation of the impact of NWDA’s activities. This aligns with what he says is a key driver of further investment in the organisation’s team. ‘Being an investor in people is about more than just putting a plaque on the wall,’ he says.
That is all at the micro level, as it were. On the macro or external level, NWDA has some significant local victories that it fully intends to capitalise on this year.
One is the imminent move of a large chunk of the BBC to the Northwest, allied to the creation of the mediacity:uk development at Salford Quays, Manchester, led by Peel Holdings, a facility that is predicted to bring in £1.5 billion to the regional economy, and a project which NWDA has invested in and helped facilitate.
Another such victory is the rebuilding of the historic link Liverpool has with shipping with a reinvigorated dockside cruise liner terminal, which already has a number of confirmed bookings. Meanwhile, over 33 million tonnes of cargo still goes through Liverpool Port each year.
Broomhead believes it is time to think beyond Liverpool as city in decline or even as a European Capital of Culture. It is time to think of it and the rest of the Northwest as part of the economic success story of UK plc.