This week, John Forkin, MD of Marketing Derby imagines what he would write to the new Prime Minister…

Dear Prime Minister,

First may I offer my congratulations on your appointment?

It was important to put a quick end to the political uncertainty that followed the EU Referendum and, there is no doubt that having a new government in situ has helped settle nerves. 

You have certainly hit the ground running, re-shaping the structure of government and reaching out to key partners in Edinburgh, Berlin and Paris.

I suspect it won’t be too long before you make your first visit to Derby as Prime Minister and, let me extend an invitation for you to do so.

You will find a city with 300 years of innovation in our DNA, home to the world’s first factory (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and today a vibrant centre for 21st Century technology and enterprise. 

You will already know our big name employers: we are a proud HQ to Rolls-Royce’s Corporate, Civil Aerospace and Nuclear operations; home to the world’s largest car maker, Toyota and leading train manufacturer, Bombardier

We sometimes cluster these, and their talented supply chains, together as ‘Trains, Planes and Automobiles’.

As important as these are, Derby is so much more, 6,000 businesses - sole traders and SMEs - working hard to contribute to UK plc. 

In fact, the Centre for Cities has just produced a report that shows Derby as having the UK's fastest-rising tax base outside London, alongside Aberdeen. 

This makes us one of the key drivers of the UK economy, generating £17,397 taxes per job, 7th best in the UK. You could say that we more than pay our way.

Prime Minister, you need more cities like Derby.

Prime Minister, you need more cities like Derby.

The purpose of Marketing Derby is to attract inward investment, so creating employment for local people. 

We are a small, dedicated team, funded by our City Council and 300 business Bondholders - to be clear, that’s businesses putting their money into helping to improve their city. 

Having just celebrated our 10th anniversary, we are proud to have attracted 3,650 jobs - one job for each day of our existence.

Having just celebrated our 10th anniversary, we are proud to have attracted 3,650 jobs - one job for each day of our existence.

This includes hi-tech companies, foreign-owned companies, retailers, leisure providers, developers, call centres – even a deep sea oil and gas company (I know, Derby is far from the coast, but we are Grand Central when it comes to engineers…). 

Our business model is unique and when you visit Derby you will experience a partnership ethos where civic and business leaders work in common purpose for the greater good.

Our business model is unique and when you visit Derby you will experience a partnership ethos where civic and business leaders work in common purpose for the greater good. 

A perfect example of this is Infinity Park Derby, a 100-acre employment site and Enterprise Zone being opened by your Party Chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, tomorrow.

Patrick will get to drive down a new link road, Infinity Park Way, funded via the D2N2 LEP and Regional Growth Funding, in an historic Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. 

If you ask Patrick about his experience I’m sure he will say how Infinity Park, as a joint venture between Derby City Council, Rolls-Royce, developers Cedar House and others, illustrates perfectly how government intervention works to release enterprise. 

Its first building is ready to open – a stunning Innovation Centre involving the Universities of Derby and Aston – and we hope to eventually attract up to 8,000 jobs.

I know your In-Tray must be huge but wanted to remind you that, beyond the shock and awe of post-Brexit headlines and challenges, there are hard-working cities, like Derby, with the capabilities and capacity to get on with the job. 

We just need the right messages, nudges and support from your Government.

Which brings me onto the asks (you knew this was coming) of which I have three:

  1. Devolution. Help us to help you address the fractures exposed by the Brexit vote – please find ways to devolve powers and investment from SW1 and into the cities and regions. Encourage the public-private partnerships within our cities, collaborations between neighbours and across the Midlands. Avoid the (Treasury) itch to micro-manage and over-bureaucratise, trust us to deliver. Believe me, in Derby we have the talent to develop nuclear power and aero-engines that fly millions across the world – we can handle some responsibility. 
  2. Rebalance. Make your industrial strategy real. You know how symbolic it was to even include the phrase in the title of a ministry and I congratulate you for that, but BEIS must become a platform not a ghetto. The London Challenge delivered structural change in the quality of schooling in the capital. A Midlands (and Northern) Challenge is as much a part of industrial plan as infrastructure and sector support. Greg Clarke must be given licence to knit together government interventions that create genuine synergies that really make a long-term impact.
  3. Internationalism. The referendum vote was an unexpected shock globally and many have interpreted the decision as a desire by the UK to want to stop the world and get off. We must nip this in the bud. Government can lead the way by using the summer and autumn to travel the world, assuring others that the UK is open for business. You could be encouraging (and incentivising) business and civic leaders to be doing the same. Whatever the outcome of post-Article 50 negotiations, we are going to have to significantly increase our international business trade and investment activity and we need to start now.

Thank you for your time Prime Minister and we look forward to your visit to the UK’s Capital for Innovation soon.