One of the most influential names in the Northern business sector has thrown her weight behind the Levelling Up initiative.
Lou Cordwell is the founder of digital agency magneticNorth, which recently merged with London-based Fluxx to create Magnetic, where she is the Chief Creative Officer.
She’s also the chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and said the Government’s appointment of Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow as Innovation Accelerators has given her genuine belief.
The new Silicon Valley-style Innovation Accelerators will aim to create new jobs and boost regional economies.
Critics of the Government have dismissed Levelling Up as a white elephant but Cordwell is more optimistic, although she admits it’s overdue.
“I think we’ve known for a long time, whether you call it the Northern Powerhouse of Levelling Up, that there’s a fundamental problem in the UK that the economy and the growth agenda has been too London and South East centric,” she said.
“I remember almost 20 years ago standing in our office with Tony Wilson and we’d made a banner for him because he wanted to go on North West Tonight to talk about devolution and why it was important.
“We made this huge banner that had a picture of the Houses of Parliament and it was done like a property advert and the line on it said ‘large house, south-facing gardens’ and he went on the news to talk about how important it was to shift the agenda.
“I think this has been a long time coming and genuinely think that we’re in a moment where that’s well understood and people understand that requires investment and a shift in behaviours and a shift in spending patterns.
“I do actually think the Government is committed to delivering that I think the appointment of Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow as Innovation Accelerators recognises that.”
Cordwell said universities and businesses have a huge part to play in the Levelling Up agenda.
“There’s a real appetite to work with business to help drive that agenda and to listen to business,” she explained. “What I’m seeing is that they want to understand what the challenges are for business, around skills, around SMEs, recognising the lifeblood of the economy is going to be SMEs so driving that growth is going to be really important so I am genuinely optimistic.
“I do think we are in a moment where people know it’s just not sustainable (without action). We’re not going to achieve the economic growth that we need as a country if we don’t maximise the capabilities of those other city regions outside of London.”