Manchester City Council

Where next?

The monthly series of meetings around the Combined Authority are delayed a little today to allow members to attend the launch of the Manchester-China Forum. Chaired by Airport Chief Executive Charlie Cornish the Forum's objectives are to increase Greater Manchester's connectivity with China and to facilitate the business climate that enables companies in Greater Manchester to further develop relationships with China. China is already the second biggest economy in the world, and although the rate of growth has slowed there, it still won't be long before it's the biggest economy. By way of comparison, by 2020, China will probably be Germany's biggest export market. If Manchester could be involved in only a tiny sliver of that growth, the impact on our own economy would be enormous.

Later this afternoon I make a journey almost as long and as difficult, as going to China as I travel to Alderley Park, somewhere in deepest Cheshire, for the first meeting of the AstraZeneca task force, looking at potential uses for the site there when AstraZeneca transfer research functions to Cambridge. It goes without saying that the loss of a couple of thousand research jobs from the region is bad news. The task now is to, in traditional Manchester style, turn adversity into opportunity.

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There are 3 responses to “Where next?”

  1. anon Says:

    This AZ taskforce has all the hallmarks of the locking the stable door after the horse has, quite literally, bolted. Opportunity has been turned into adversity thanks to apparent complacency and lack of co-ordination by a plethora of public and private bodies both local and national, as well as negligence by the AZ themselves. The loss of these jobs is not just merely bad news but a disaster for the local economy and the many firms operating in or reliant on that sector.

    So this taskforce has quite a job on its hands both in terms of the site itself and the broader economy.

    In respect of the Alderley Park site, quite what the attraction of such an isolated location, without the USP of Daresbury say, is to small, knowledge intensive firms remains to be seen. There is a potential model to follow in the Hexagon Tower in Blakely, last occupied, ironically, by ICI Pharmaceuticals, latterly Zeneca before they moved to Alderley Park and now home to a number of small firms.

    The bigger question then becomes how do we connect up all these dispersed interests to improve the diffusion of knowledge and innovation, trading opportunities and promote economic growth, and so prevent other parts of our economy ʻheading southʻ.

    Part of the answer must surely lie in increasing the compactness and connectedness of our city. Business forums, physical, social and digital infrastructure are vital components. But if there is a lesson to take from this episode, it is the continuing importance of location within a large, urbanised city economy. There is a nice big empty site, recently vacated by the BBC at the top of Oxford Road that would have been perfect for AstraZeneca. Close to our great universities, colleges, research institutes and accessible to an enormous talent pool, the only people currently exploiting this opportunity are car park operators. A strategically important site you might say; an opportunity missed or an opportunity that was beyond the city´s reach?

    So what are we really missing? Are we lacking resources, institutional capacity, insight, autonomy, political will, planning, co-ordination? All of the above? Answers on a postcard to the “AstraZeneca taskforce”.....

  2. cheshire Says:

    its about 15 minutes down the A34 from Handforth Richard - hardly a long journey. Not as far as Brazil from the UK for an environmnet summit!!!

  3. Tony Says:

    Going to the AZ site by public transport is a nightmare, not even a taxi rank at the station.

    Anon - very good points, the difficulty is who here has the wealth and is prepared to spend it here rather than London or overseas?

 

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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