Small firms are vital to growth - LEP chairman

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Smaller businesses are vital to the success of the region’s economy, a senior business figure has claimed.

Neil McLean, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, told a meeting that economic growth would be driven by SMEs.

Mr McLean, pictured, spoke at a meeting of the Leeds and District branch of the Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses in Headingley.

He was invited by chairman Bill Lumsden to help allay fears among the small business community that the Local Enterprise Partnership initiative in the city would leave them behind.

But Mr McLean told those attending: “It’s not about big business, let me kill that off straight away. The growth we need will be carried out by SMEs. If we achieve just half of the businesses in the City Region taking on one extra person that will make a big difference.”

Mr McLean said that the Leeds City Region – which brings together 11 local authorities – had set challenging targets for the £53bn regional economy, which is larger than the economies of nine European countries. He said the organisation wants to see a return to pre-recession employment levels by 2016 which means finding 60,000 jobs, a growth rate per year of 2.6 per cent to 2030 and a major reduction in carbon emissions.

He said: “They are very high level ambitions, I accept that, but if we can do some of that it will spread throughout the economy and everyone will benefit.”

Mr McLean said that he hoped that smaller businesses will find success acting as suppliers to the region’s larger firms, including those that export.

He suggested that the Enterprise Zone in south Leeds could attract more economic growth to the region and hoped that the Government’s proposed Green Investment Bank – whose location is due to be announced next month – will also come here. Mr McLean said: “If we can get it it will bring a lot of business in and give a lot of work to businesses. It will just pour money into the regional economy.”

Mr McLean said the LEP will be led by what businesses want and need.

Artist Ruth Spencer Jolly who composed 'European Unison' an ensemble written for 28 pianos, representing the members of the European Union and symbolising Brexit, following a preview of her work at Besbrode Pianos in Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 23, 2017. The composition tells the story of the EU from its birth to Brexit. The ensemble of pianos is a metaphor demonstrating "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

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