Channel firms in the north have urged the government not to let Brexit derail its Northern Powerhouse project, insisting that the region still needs funding to improve its status as a business hub.
This week, Manchester firm Exponential-e moved to larger offices in the city in line with its expansion, and used the opportunity to call on the government to maintain its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse scheme.
The Northern Powerhouse is the brainchild of former chancellor George Osborne and is a project designed to bridge the gap between the north and south through investment and initiatives.
Yesterday, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the scheme, sending commercial secretary to the Treasury Jim O'Neill and Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy on a tour of the region, continuing their efforts to "help make the north a powerhouse for the UK economy once again and build on the strong progress of the last two years".
Today the government announced that so-called Enterprise Zones in the north - which provide tax breaks and government support - have created more than eight jobs per working day since 2012 and more than £1m a day in private investment. It claims in the three months to December 2015, 1,220 jobs were created in the zones, up 18 per cent on the previous quarter.
But the decision to leave the European Union should not put the Northern Powerhouse plans on the back burner, Exponential-e's business and partner development director Simon Acott said.
"Following June's vote to leave the EU, the UK needs to defend its ability to perform and interact on a global stage," he said. "Just as importantly, this investment needs to be spread across Britain. Early signs of the new chancellor's commitment to maintaining a focus on building a Northern Powerhouse is a reassuring sign about the future of growth outside the M25."
Lawrence Jones (pictured), CEO of Manchester firm UKFast, said:
"During the Brexit campaign I worked hard to draw attention to the amount of funding the region receives from the EU for major transport and science projects. The government is going to have to make good on the Leave campaign's promise to at least match that figure, if it is going to get anywhere near to convincing people that they're serious about delivering a Northern Powerhouse.
"I set a goal to make Manchester the number one tech city in the UK and I believe it's not impossible. When we achieve that goal then we will have gone a long way towards creating a true Northern Powerhouse. We've heard a lot from the government about this but if we, as a northern business community, don't take the right steps to make it happen then it will completely lose momentum. It's up to us, not the politicians."
Exponential-e's Acott added: "What we need now is targeted investment. In order to compete on a global stage, northern enterprises must have better connectivity access. Putting resources into heavy-duty networking capabilities to serve growing business hubs, or delivering on promises to install premium-grade broadband in business districts across the north would help foster greater confidence among British companies based in the north."
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