BUSINESS leaders say there is still more to be done as the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) looks back on its first two years.
Achievements and future plans come under the spotlight as the LEP holds its first Annual General Meeting at Durham Cricket club today.
Chairman Paul Woolston said: “The highlights of our first two years include the commissioning and production of the North East Independent Economic Review, led by Lord Adonis, which creates a blueprint for regional growth up to 2020.
“We have set ambitious targets and brought major funds to the region, including European Structural Funding 2014-2020, Regional Growth Funds and Growing Places Funding, the latter two of which allowed us to create the £55million North East Investment Fund.
“More and better jobs for the North East is our priority and it is heartening to see that we have already created or safeguarded thousands of jobs through the North East Enterprise Zones, support for major developments and improved access to finance for SMEs.”
The latest figures present a mixed economic picture for the region.
Based on Gross Value Added (a measure of the value of goods and services produced), the North East economy is performing better than anywhere else in England outside London and the South East.
But the region’s low employment rate means that the region is below average on GVA per head, partly because of its reliance on public sector employment, which provides a lower GVA per head than jobs in the private sector.
LEP director Edward Twiddy said: “In its first two years, the North East LEP has made some major strides forward in its work to boost the region’s economy.
“We started work during the recession, and now the economy appears to be gaining sustained momentum, we are looking forward to seeing our strategies bear fruit.
“There is much still to be done, but I believe we have established a firm foundation for regional growth, based on the private and public sector working together with support from the region’s world class universities and all sectors across the North East.”
The LEP has played a key role in the creation of the North East Enterprise Zone, which covers 10 sites on land next to the A19 and Nissan, and aims to promote the region’s low-carbon industries.
Future projects under consideration include further investment in the growth of the sub-sea industry for new and renewable energy projects and the development of new trading links.