Warren Limbert, managing director of Lambert.
Nick Hill

What a Northern Powerhouse in Yorkshire means to: Warren Limbert, managing director of Lambert

Bdaily’s newest series aims to give the business people of Yorkshire the opportunity to voice their opinions on the the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative within the region.

It has been close to two years since George Osborne first announced the government’s aim of creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and yet it can be argued that there is still very little understanding of what this actually is.

Bdaily now hopes to grasp a clear concept of a Northern Powerhouse by talking with Yorkshire business leaders to uncover how close the region has come to reaching independent economic prosperity.

Up next is Warren Limbert, the managing director of Lambert, which is a Tadcaster-based provider of automation systems, equipment engineering and precision components.

The company, which employs 183 people, grew 20% last year to £26m and expects to increase sales by £8m in 2016 by targeting new customers in the medical device and packaging sectors.

Hi Warren, so what do you think the Northern Powerhouse will do for Yorkshire?

First and foremost, it should give us an identity and voice within the decision making process and when looking to attract investment that delivers on our key regional priorities…this is something that has been missing for many years.

However, we shouldn’t take it as a given and businesses will need to step up to the plate and make sure we start making sure our voice is heard in the right places.

A softer benefit of the Northern Powerhouse should be a closer network of collaboration across the many different industries that make Yorkshire and Humber great.

What will the Northern Powerhouse do for Lambert?

Road network and a major international airport are key concerns within Yorkshire and Humber, with the conversation often swayed too much towards rail (which I actually believe does a decent job).

With more than 60% of our £26m turnover exported, being able get our products out the door easily and ensuring our factory is accessible to overseas customers would be a major step in the right direction.

I mentioned collaboration earlier and this will be especially important to Lambert. For the UK to be at the forefront of manufacturing innovation, IoT, Industry 4.0 and cyber connectivity, it is imperative that there is a stronger network put in place to bring together the visionary companies, universities and organisations that will deliver this roadmap.

As a designer of large scale bespoke factory automation, we are a vital ingredient in ensuring this is successful, so I support any improvement that encourages greater collaboration.

Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?

Yes, I believe to date there has been enough done and initiatives launched to convince me ‘they’ are committed. It is now time for business to step up, embrace it and make the vision a reality.

Connectivity has been a major driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve the economic climate in the North?

Clearly the answer is yes, but the money has to be spent in line with where the UK has to lead. Spending billions to fix only today’s problems does not go far enough; this investment has to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to support the next 20 to 30 years - as a minimum.

What, if any, other sectors/industries should the government key in on to achieve a Northern Powerhouse?

To achieve a Northern Powerhouse we must engage across all sectors and industries to ensure there is a common goal to transform the products and services we supply so they are world class.

The Northern Powerhouse has to be at the forefront of the UK’s global service, combining vision and infrastructure with technology and support to deliver better value than our international competitors.

Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?

Intelligent communications and data management are the future. Money spent here should be the priority, as it will deliver reduced and more efficient management of our transport networks.

Obviously, investment here also has benefits well beyond just transport, which is why it is far more critical.

Investment connected with skills development, apprenticeships, productivity and R&D/Patents must also always be on the table.

As with Sheffield’s £900m agreement, should the other regions in Yorkshire also try to strike a devolution deal with the government?

As the Managing Director at Lambert I am sat firmly on the fence here. Devolution brings stronger decision making and control at a local level rather than at central government, and, although I support this in principle, there still has to be an overriding UK manufacturing strategy. This provides the vision and direction required to be globally successful.

The concern for me is that too much money is being wasted on projects that do not connect with the UK’s initiatives to ensure we, as a country, are competitive.

My other concern centres around creating local entities that compete against their neighbours, instead of overseas rivals.

The vision of the Northern Powerhouse is to create an entity that can deliver innovation, connectivity and growth through a large network of industry and resources. Regions - looking towards striking their own devolution deal – surely goes against this vision?

Would it not be better staying centralised and allowing our Local Enterprise Partnerships to play their part?

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in Yorkshire?

Yes, but the secret to success is to ensure business leaders and their companies are involved and fully engaged. Growth will not come through lip service or the odd marketing push, but through our ability to harness our region’s talents and ensure our voice is influencing the key decisions that are being made.

Thank you Warren.

Don’t miss our latest Northern Powerhouse coverage here. To nominate a Yorkshire business leader to be part of our new series, contact Nick at nick.hill@bdaily.co.uk.

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