Liverpool needs a united business front

The business community has urged Merseyside’s civic leaders and economic chiefs to put aside their differences so the Liverpool region can move forward.

That was the one of the messages that came out of the Insider Liverpool Economic Forum at the Radisson Blu Hotel yesterday (15 May 2012).

About 110 delegates packed into the event to hear a panel consisting of Cllr Paul Brant, deputy leader of Liverpool City Council and Wayne Locke, regional director of Ashtenne/Space Northwest, who asset manages Liverpool Innovation Park.

Also speaking were Dr Neil Murray, chief executive of Redx Pharma; commercial director of law firm Weightmans John Schorah; and Alan Welby, executive director for key sector for growth at Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Liverpool One, Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre, the imminent return of turnaround cruises in the city and the election of Joe Anderson as the city’s first directly-elected mayor were all highlighted as big positives for the area.

However, the row that engulfed The Mersey Partnership (TMP) – culminating in the resignation of chief executive Lorraine Rogers – the delay in launching the Liverpool LEP and the city’s failure to win bids for the Green Investment Bank and superfast broadband access were all given as areas of concerns.

In a lively debate, the panel said it was vital the LEP worked in unison with Liverpool Vision and the region’s councils, who have not always agreed on key decisions, pulled in the same direction.

Locke said: “Liverpool has already got fantastic networks. There are cables under most of the streets.

Liverpool only missed out on the first round of funding for broadband but I think the big issue is getting through the complexities of using public sector funding to benefit the private sector. Unless everyone pulls together and buries their agendas they won’t get over it.”

Weightmans is about to move into new 94,000 sq ft offices in The Plaza on Old Hall Street and Schorah said it highlighted the strength of the professional services sector in Liverpool.

He said: “Liverpool is stable. I think we’ve grown a lot from a very low base. We’ve got some way to go to attract more density in manufacturing.”

Dr Murray said he had been attracted to Liverpool by the warm welcome he had first received and hoped RedX Pharma would eventually employ 400 staff. RedX Pharma is the anchor tenant for Liverpool Bio Innovation Centre (LBIC) and Dr Murray said it was vital building work started soon.

He claimed: “Liverpool has got a massive opportunity to be a city on the global stage of life science. It’s not Liverpool versus Manchester or Oxford versus Cambridge because firms are looking globally.”

Cllr Brant stepped in to replace Cllr Anderson after the newly-elected mayor was invited to attend the annual New Cities Summit in Paris last week. He said: “On an international basis, I think we’re punching well above our weight, probably second only to London.

“Nationally we’ve probably underperformed in the last 30 years but that has now changed and we’re back.”

Welby previously worked for The Merseyside Partnership (TMP) and said the Liverpool LEP would be judged on what it achieves. He said: “We’re a partnership bringing people together. We’re building on the work of TMP. It’s a new dawn, a new day.”

The event was sponsored by Active Profile; Health@work; Jones Lang LaSalle; and Weightmans; in association with the Liverpool Commercial District BID.

The panel was chaired by Insider editor Chris Maguire, who paid tribute to the work of Paul Rice, the former chief executive of Liverpool Commercial District BID, who died of cancer in January at the age of 54.

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