Speak this morning at the CityCo ( City Centre Management Company ) annual review, a look back at how the city centre has performed over the past year, and a look forward to the prospects over the next twelve months. Co-incidentally the Council's Economy, Employment and Skills is taking a report this morning on city centre regeneration, a follow up to a presentation they had last month on economic development more generally across the city. That presentation talked about the potential to create 75,000 jobs in the city by 2015, but to get an idea of just how important the city centre is, 57,000 of those jobs are expected to be in it. This morning's review was opened by Rowena Burns, the chair of the CityCo board, and both she and I pursued a similar theme - times are tough but, in Manchester at least, there are grounds for cautious optimism.
Last year, in a year dominated by public sector expenditure cuts, and in which nationally the economy achieved at best sluggish growth, Manchester survived remarkably well. A record year for the Arndale Centre, good hotel occupancy rates with on many occasions no room at the inn, city centre residential accommodation fully occupied, great events like the third Manchester International Festival, are just a few indicators of a city centre that was doing a lot better than just surviving. Looking forward, the National Graphene institute and other developments at and around our universities, a start on site for the new cinema/gallery/theatre/cafe at 1st Street, the next phase of development at NOMA - the Co-op's major scheme in the north of the city centre, and the restart of the St.Peter's Square design competition are just a small sample of things not just being thought about but happening,that continue to drive the city centre forwards, and that gives us a real prospect of being able to create those 57,000 jobs. For those who want to know more, I suggest you download this morning's report in city centre regeneration from the City Council's web-site.