Partnership working between the public and private sector is key to Doncaster’s economic success.
That was a key message among trade leaders who gathered for the annual Doncaster Business Conference at the Legacy Centre in Wheatley today.
Addressing a crowd of several hundred delegates, Dan Fell, chief executive officer of Doncaster Chamber, said good working relationships between Doncaster Council and private companies had helped to deliver major projects such as the Tour de Yorkshire, Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme (FARRRS) link road and the National College for High Speed Rail.
This must continue if the business community is to deliver major projects in the future, such as the proposed University Technical College in Doncaster, he said.
“There is no magic formula to boost the economy. It is an art not a science.
“Meaningful and lasting partnerships between the private and public sector is key. We must be part of Team Doncaster.”
He said the Doncaster Skills Academy, a joint initiative between the chamber and schools, has successfully “bridged the gap between education and business” and added: “Over the next year we will take the Skills Academy from strength to strength.”
Mr Fell also welcomed the £900 million devolution deal - part of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative - for the Sheffield City Region. The Government scheme aims to give the region’s civic and business leaders more say over its economy in terms of making decisions on transport, skills and jobs growth. It will also give the region access to a pot of government money - £30m a year over 30 years.
Mr Fell said: “We should fully embrace the devolution deal and keep going back for more.”
He added the town has “challenges and opportunities in equal measure” over the coming years but stressed the town’s business community “knows more about how to grow our local economy than Whitehall does.”
Nigel Brewster, partner at Doncaster-based Brewster Pratap and vice-chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said the organisation has a plan to create 70, 000 new jobs and 6, 000 new businesses across the SCR over the next ten years.
He added: “The devolution deal will allow us to do big projects more quickly and to grow the economy quicker without waiting for Whitehall to grind its wheels into motion.”
A number of key delegates - including Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband, Doncaster Free Press editor Phil Bramley and Jo Miller, chief executive of Doncaster Council - sat on panels to debate three key themes:- the Northern Powerhouse initiative, marketing the town and how to inspire the next generation.
Ms Miller said: “Doncaster’s unique selling point is its connectivity and it is at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse. There are 46 trains a day from Doncaster to London and it takes 88 minutes. That is connectivity at its best. If the Northern Powerhouse is about having a connected economy, then Doncaster is at the heart of it.”
She added the region should use the initiative to establish “what else the North needs to correct the North/South divide.”
Simon Carr, managing director of Henry Boot Construction, said: “We need to prove we can deliver and make decisions locally.”
Mr Miliband said he was in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. He told the audience: “We want people to be ambitious and outward looking and not insular.
“We want broader horizons, not narrower horizons.”
Helen Redford-Hernandez, headteacher at Hungerhill School, said many young people know from an early age what they want to do in their career, and the education system should do more to support that.
She said: “We start careers education too late in secondary school and that needs to happen earlier on.”
Gori Yahaya, head of training and development for the Digital Garage from Google, rounded off the day giving a key note speech explaining the cornerstones of digital marketing.