CLES, a Manchester-based think-tank which focuses on economic development and regeneration, co- hosted a meeting on Weds 23rd September, with Norfolk Charitable Trust. The meeting was called to share the results of a research project which looked into what makes local economies resilient.
A group of four individuals [Jennifer Ashby Deputy Director of Department for Communities and Local Government; Daniel Cox Leader of Norfolk County Council; Neil McInroy Chief Executive of Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES); David Southworth Assistant Director at Regional Economics and Investment, Department for Business Innovation and Skills] visited various cities across the world to explore the corresponding strengths and weaknesses of local economies. I did inwardly wonder if they had flown to these exotic locations which included Japan, Vietnam and Mexico- probably yes- and cringe a little.
Anyway, using their anlysis of places like the textile economy of Coimbatore in India and the ‘Green’ US city of Portland, they put forward the following observations of what makes an economy resiliant, in the hope that we could learn from their mistakes/successes:
Need a broad conception of what the economy is
– There are social, public and commercial aspects which are all important for economic resiliance → commerical economy isn’t the all and everything for success
– Economic growth acknowledged as a means to achieving a healthy society rather than an end in itself
– Problem of too much orthodoxy in the approach taken towards local economies
Local government knowing when to intervene and when it is getting in the way
– Too much or too little involvement by local government is bad for economic resilience → pragmatic reponses are needed rather than those rooted in political dogma
– Importance of local leadership with regards to direction and planning to 1. disperse benefits of growth 2. setting a direction 3. discourage monopoly in an area
Identity of a place
– Tapping into physical resources (ports, etc), as well a cultural and identity of the place
– This not only keeps investers interested but it also attracts important resources such as workers
– “If places are people then economic resilience requires strong personalities”
Local government planning and managing creativity
– Resilience is all about creating opportunities in adversity and that requires creative minds
– Importance of ideas such as green investment and green innovation
– Creative sector does create income and contributes to the economy
Local government as a ‘Coagulant’
– smart intervention by government needs to be subtle and to work with local industry
– It also has to be willing to give away power to other players
Whilst the meeting didn’t really tell us anything particularly new or shocking, I was taken by the notion that the identity of a place is important for economic resilience. It was also nice to hear people, other than green activists, point out that economic growth is not everything and that it’s important to work within the natural limits of the resources provided to us.
One of the major problem, however, was there wasn’t any Manchester-specific (or even UK-specific) information to apply to our own local economies. They are hoping to resolve this, as they are asking 5 local authorities to step forward and allow them to apply their observations and measure their city’s economic resiliance… I can feel a ‘Why not in Manchester’ coming up..
CLES will also be hosting fringe events at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, on ‘Localism and Economic Resilience’ on the 6th of October and transport investment for a resilient economy on the 7th of October.