30 January 2014

It’s a rivalry that goes back years but clearly the old North/South divide is still as strong as ever. This week, I was shown an article about an annual ‘state of the cities’ report that ranked Manchester as the fourth biggest creator of private sector jobs in Britain.

Whilst this is an achievement and we should keep pushing for that top spot, the article seemed to focus in on the line that Manchester was losing its best talent to London. They called it the “brain drain”. When you think about the phrase ‘brain drain’ it’s actually not very complimentary towards London if you consider where our drains lead!

However, I think this focus on Manchester ‘failing’ to retain talent or to create as many new jobs as London is an unfair comparison. London is a huge city made up of hundreds of very different places combined together and, you might argue, overpopulated. Whilst young people still might see the capital as the location of opportunity and excitement, I think this is an out of date picture. There’s still much more to be done regionally to topple the idea that the capital is where you have to be to succeed.

Manchester is a great place for business as, in order to be really innovative, you have to have the space to grow and expand. Unlike London, here you won’t be met with astronomical prices for property so it’s easier to acquire and therefore retain greater control over your business. There are loads of bars and restaurants to relax and spend time with your colleagues, and the countryside is right on your doorstep for weekends away.

Add to that the fact that geographically, Manchester is at the centre of Britain and has been a hub of productivity and innovation for years. Alan Turing, arguably the father of the modern computer, carried out his work at the University of Manchester. It’s the place where Graphene was discovered and where hundreds of great bands were formed!

Yet, is it fair to say that in previous years, the powers that be have shown preferential treatment towards the capital when it comes to funds and resources? I don’t think it would be that farfetched to suggest it. Even the HS2 development puts London at the centre of the country, reinforcing it as a place people have to get to and from for business. Perhaps we should rename HS2 ‘the brain drain train’! Just an idea…

Do you think London is still the gemstone of the country or is your city an underestimated rival for the crown? How do we get regional Britain competing with the capital?


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