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The competitive advantage of counties – a Lancashire story

The competitive advantage of counties – a Lancashire story

I know I hide this well, but almost every day is a reason to celebrate Lancashire from my perspective – it’s not just Monday 27 November, it’s a life choice. 

But as we’re here on Lancashire Day itself, let’s use our brand new devolution deal as a springboard for confirming the county’s identity and communicating it out in an uncharacteristically loud voice.      

In Lancashire, we make things.  

You might have heard of the industrial revolution?

We’ve been making all kinds of textiles for hundreds of years, furniture, lino even.  During the war, manufacture of nuclear fuel was relocated here.  Since then, we’ve generated power and made planes, engines, batteries, a whole heap of low carbon tech and a gazillion different components necessary for these resilient, responsive supply chains to flourish.  All of this has helped to make us the fourth biggest aerospace hub in the world.  

But why is manufacturing such a fundamental part of Lancashire’s DNA?

Because we had power generated from running water, we had coal, we had the right kind of weather.  

No really.  The dampening air is perfect for carding wool and the water is soft, so it’s great for processing cotton fibres.

And if you’re looking for a place to hide a World War II squadron or two, look no further than Lancashire’s pretty regular cloud cover.  Thanks go to Miranda Barker for the reminder of this fact at the recent East Lancs Chamber Supply Chain Conference

As strategy gurus would say, we have a ‘harmonized combination of resources and skills that distinguish us from other places’.  

These act as the foundation of Lancashire’s competitiveness.  

I’m paraphrasing, but the point is valid.  

Let’s own the truths of Lancashire that some may advise us to gloss over.  Because like the clouds and rain (which gives us lush landscape as well as a hiding place for air defences) there are opportunities presented by who we really are and what we have here.  

Low carbon tech manufacture is in part centred in our county, because of pollution caused by coal-fuelled factories.      

Lancashire’s recent Independent Economic Review highlighted the fact that 50% of Lancashire’s population live within a 5-mile radius of the M65.  It also highlighted the health inequalities.  As a test bed for Medtech, that makes Lancashire a perfect place to monitor health and evaluate the impact of emerging innovation.  Not only that, but we have the capacity and the capability to feed ourselves back to health, from our own natural resources.  No wonder so many site-specific health projects are happening here.    

And let’s be proud of what we are not.

We aren’t another Manchester and never should be.    

Or another Liverpool, despite our shared shameful slave trade similarities.  

We are a network of beautifully distinct former mill towns.  Burnley and Blackburn football fans can tell you how tribal that makes us.  If any one place gets too big for its boots, the others all volunteer to bring it back down to earth in a hurry.  

This has created the perfect conditions for a thriving hub and spoke network of distinct places, each with their own character, specialisms and context.  With stunning countryside accessible from each one, you’re never far from a reminder of why people love to live here.  

Over the past couple of years we’ve had amazing announcements and new assets added to Lancashire.  AMRC North West.  RedCAT Centre for Alternative Technologies.  Plans for Eden Project North and National Cyber Force.  All of these represent huge investments that link us into chains of industry that span the world.  

Our task as proud Lancastrians on this and every other #LancashireDay then, is to capture the value and amplify the ripple effects of all this richness, in a way that is wholeheartedly Lancastrian – with humour, hard work and hopefully not too much humility.  

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