North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Steve Hood, Forfusion
In an ongoing series, Jamie Hardesty is talking to North East business leaders in an attempt to understand the region’s feelings towards the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.
The next regional figurehead to take part in our investigation is Steve Hood, business development manager at Newcastle-based technology and professional services consultancy, Forfusion.
Specialising in unified communications and collaboration, networks and security, and cloud and host technologies, the company has been quite vocal recently in how advances in these technologies can help improve productivity, break down traditional barriers and ultimately build prosperity, particularly in the North East.
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?
Essentially it’s a partnership of key cities and areas of the whole Northern region coming together to bring to bear our collective strengths and positively impact the regional and thus national economy.
Furthermore, I see it as an important initiative for securing the future prosperity of our towns and cities. Attracting more of our younger generations to live and work here (and not feel the need to relocate).
Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?
Partially, for example we lead the way in the North East in terms of exports. On the whole, it’s a bit of a slow burner and I think this is because it’s being led by bureaucrats and politicians and not by business leaders and ultimately entrepreneurship. It’s time for the business community to take over.
Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?
I don’t want to make this political, however, I think it’s required and admirable of the Government to initiate it although I’m not convinced it’s an entirely new or unique concept.
My problem with it, is that I don’t think any UK Government would have the political will to fully implement it. That’s why I firmly believe that if we want it to succeed, the business community should own and drive it.
Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?
Yes, I agree that infrastructure improvements need to be carried out, but I also think they need to be radical and different. My problem with them is the length of time they take and the level of disruption on a day to day basis, that they can cause.
Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?
Yes. I think that before we embark on any of the infrastructure projects, the Government should make it law that Superfast Internet Connectivity & 4G Mobile Coverage are treated as fully fledged utilities and must commit to enabling affordable access to them everywhere, by say 2018.
If we did that, a huge proportion of businesses would be able to adopt full, reliable, flexible working practices by implementing collaborative technologies.
This would make commuting to and from a place of work at specific times of the day, a thing of the past. By easing traffic congestion in this way, perhaps the road infrastructure projects could be less intrusive and expensive.
Does the North East need a mayor? If so, who should it be?
I think we probably should have one, but I strongly believe it shouldn’t be a politician. Someone that understands the politics but also has connections and experience in the business community, would be my choice. Someone like NECC Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham who has already done so much for the region.
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