I am a broken woman. Every bone in my body aches. I am still hoarse. I have a skip load of business cards to process. And a backlog of several thousand e-mails to sort. The word “exhaustion” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Yes, it is has all the hallmarks: it is the first working day after MIPIM. And even though I slept much of this last weekend, the decompression is likely to take several more days yet.
Much has been made of the UK presence, and the level of optimism in Team UK, at MIPIM this year. And rightly. That the government was out on the front foot was plain to see. The interchange between the major cluster of UK pavilions on the front gave for a powerful dynamic. The Department for Trade put on a seriously impressive programme of events. And the Midlands, in particular, are to be congratulated for exhibiting together. The utterly superb weather helped, of course. And nobody made any waspish comments whatsoever about the fact that most of the UK was exhibiting out of the Palais, and away from our European neighbours.
My big news, as heavily trailed in my last post, was that the Northern Gateway Development Zone, a shared investment campaign for South Cheshire and North Staffordshire around the HS2 Interchange at Crewe, has ditched its clunky old NGDZ moniker in favour of the sparkly and light on its feet “Constellation Partnership” with the new brand unveiled in Cannes last Tuesday. To great approbation, I am delighted to report, much assisted by a truly superb video. See the link below, and please please look at it, as it is thoroughly inspirational.
This collaboration of seven local authorities and two local enterprise partnerships is that of many bright stars. Needless to say (and I promise wine had not been taken at this point) I was a tad overly-effusive about it all, saying “This new brand is fabulous. It represents our ambition and our collective identity. One of the strengths of the partnership is our diversity, we will be the place in the UK where everything connects – people, businesses and ideas”.
But I meant it. And if you can’t be enthusiastic at MIPIM (especially given the turbo-driven investment platform of HS2) then when can you? The Constellation Partnership’s ambition is to deliver 120,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes by 2040, supercharged by the investment in HS2. It’s an enormous opportunity that requires a new approach following the approval of the High-Speed Rail hybrid bill, and one that communicates just how transformational the next decade and beyond will be.
I have been campaigning for a new name ever since I took up the reigns at the Northern Gateway, built on my bitter experience of trying to persuade the good residents of the medieval settlements at Purfleet, Grays and Dartford as the “Thames Gateway”. Needless to say, it was a futile effort. And you know what? I am now officially allergic to the name “Gateway”.
It is only just over ten years before HS2 hits Crewe: we have got to be ready, we have got to be match-fit. We will be the best-connected part of the country, and our aspiration has to match the size of the opportunity. Our target is that we become the ninth English core city, and this is seriously within our grasp.
So let us fervently hope that the Constellation name will have the right resonance with the markets and a lasting impact. This 40 square mile region, between the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine is not only nationally important, but also a distinctive constellation of inter-connected and complementary niche economies, each important in its own right. Constellation offers a competitive, accessible and sustainable investment geography, underpinned by high quality of life, a diversity of investment opportunities and a welcoming environment that embraces difference. It’s this fertile mix of ideas and energies that is generating new opportunities and growth.
Duncan Sutherland, HS2 board member (and All Round Top Bloke) speaking at the launch said that “The partners should be congratulated in how they have come together to break down the artificial barriers to growth and jobs, and offer diversity and the co-operation, partnership and community of purpose across boundaries which can hold business back in other city regions.” That is something of an understatement actually. And then, as if seamlessly, our political leaders all joined in, with Rachel Bailey, leader, Cheshire East Council and Abi Brown, deputy leader, Stoke on Trent City Council, and then Patrick Farrington, leader, Stafford Borough Council and Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council, all adding their unique stellar contribution. As did the two LEPs of course. (It was my cunning ploy to put Mike Burton of the Municipal Journal in the chair. And, of course, he knows all the political leaders. So it was a beautifully choreographed).
Blimey! It is some Constellation alright! And they are all the shiniest of shiny stars. Please, please watch the video and visit the website: http://constellationpartnership.co.uk. We had nothing short of a starburst last week. And I continue to recover.
Jackie Sadek is chief operating officer at UK Regeneration