Written by Richard Selby, founder director of Pro Steel Engineering and member of the CCR Economic Growth Partnership
As we emerge from lockdown, moving from a health crisis into an economic crisis, the proverbial saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” never rung more true.
Looking at the broader economy, it is clear there’s going to be significant turbulence ahead. At a macro level we’ve got the impact of Brexit and the uncertainty around future EU trade deals and all that that means for an economy like ours that is heavily dependent on EU trading. At a micro level we’ve got predictions of substantial unemployment looming as we approach the autumn and the phasing out of the government furlough scheme.
Whichever lens you look through, public sector, business, or community, the challenges ahead are enormous.
So how do we deal with all this?
The Sum of the Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
I would urge that now is not the time for introspection nor for ploughing a lone furrow.
Whilst many of us have rightly been focussing inside our organisations to navigate through the impacts of Covid, now is the time for us all to come together, to recognise unequivocally that we are dependent upon each other for survival, that the sum of our collective parts is indeed far greater than the sum of the whole. It is the time for courage, for selflessness, for collaboration and above all, it is the time to help each other to help ourselves.
There are excellent examples of where this philosophy is working well all around us. The CCR’s Economic Growth Partnership, of which I have recently become a Board member, sets a fine example of organisations across sectors and political spectrums working together to achieve common goals.
As we move forward, I believe this is the blueprint for how we need to work across the region.
Connect, Develop, Influence
I’ve been very impressed with the CCR’s City Deal’s appetite to spread the economic benefits around the region in a way that I haven’t seen previously. But I would also like to see more active engagement and connection with communities and local business forums, so that we can truly understand what our communities need from the CCR leadership. Armed with this, we can then use our collective influence to be a catalyst for delivery on the ground.
There is incredible potential to do so much good across areas of deprivation; not only in deprivation hot spots, but also in those middle ground areas where they’re not at the top or the bottom but they just feel left behind.
Now is our opportunity to develop something everywhere for the good of everyone, and demonstrate how the CCR’s 10 authorities can all contribute in their own way.
For example let’s take Torfaen: it’s got 38% manufacturing capability; how do we harness that? How do we use it to link Blaenau Gwent where they’ve got automotive industries to Newport where there’s semiconductors? It’s the perfect corridor to have the offshoots of the industries that exist at either end. Let’s identify what its strengths are and how it fits with the areas around it, and then capitalise on that.
Procurement – the Catalyst for Economic Growth
Covid-19 has driven home the fact that we need to maintain and support our local industries. There’s a big opportunity to support local supply chains across the CCR, and it probably wouldn’t cost a lot to do it. Procurement is a vital tool in this, but even today, it still has far too much red tape attached to it which is off-putting to many. It is the one thing that could catalyse the economy forward. It is imperative now that we are courageous and take a long hard look at our supply chains. Now more than ever we need to work together, support local suppliers who can contribute and with whom we can work – and not take the easy option of sticking with the status quo.
As business leaders it is incumbent on us all to use our influence and embrace the opportunity we have to for recognising that our responsibilities extend to a wider stakeholder base than just our shareholders and to ensure we do the right thing by our respective communities and businesses.
Above all we need to help each other to help the region. In so doing we will help ourselves. That’s the lesson of 2020.