Northern businesses are highly confident about the future despite the uncertainty of Brexit, says a report by top 10 international law firm CMS.

According to a report on the sentiment of leading businesses across the North of England, over 89% of surveyed businesses say that they are positive about the growth prospects of the Northern Powerhouse.

Corporate North, released today, surveyed over 150 business leaders from across all regions of the north about their view on the state of the north of England’s economy and their future growth prospects as businesses operating in the North.

78.6% of the surveyed businesses are fairly or strongly positive about their growth prospects for the next year, with two thirds planning to recruit new staff in the next six months. Just 6.1% felt negative about their company’s prospects.

Northern business leaders cited the magnetism of the region’s cities and towns as an important factor in determining their location. 60% of business leaders said they would not move to another location, with a further 35% saying they would only go elsewhere within the North. Only 5% said they would leave the region.

The surveyed business leaders also offered a series of recommendations that they feel are vital to help drive growth of the Northern economy faster and further.

These are:

  • Bringing forward Northern Powerhouse Rail, as well as improving connections within cities;
  • Skills investment, from both business and Government;
  • Further devolution of powers and spending from central Government to regions;
  • Businesses playing their part, driving forward growth, investing in their futures, making themselves heard; and
  • Pan-North collaboration – acting at scale. This involves collaboration between businesses, LEPs, city regions, collaboration with Government and collaboration overseas. This will require a new mode of political leadership.

Jake Berry MP, the Northern Powerhouse Minister says: “This Corporate North report from CMS shows that there is strong and widespread support from the business community across the North of England to turn the Northern Powerhouse vision into a reality. Through working together with our coalition of private and public sector partners, we can continue to attract and retain the best talent and ensure long-term sustainable increases in productivity and growth in the North as we seize the opportunities that come with Brexit.”

Mark Haywood, Head of Office, CMS Manchester, said: “Our report represents a powerful statement about the economic potential of the North at an important time, as Brexit and future planning on transport, infrastructure investment, and further devolution are the focus of political discussion.

”The evidence from business leaders whether in energy, digital, infrastructure, healthcare or future transport demonstrates that the north of England is leading the way in vital technologies.  Corporate North is confident and optimistic. Future investment in regional development could accelerate future growth and realise the true potential of the Northern Powerhouse initiative.”

Matthew Wright, UK Managing Director, Ørsted, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see such strong confidence amongst businesses in the North of England. At Ørsted, we’re absolutely committed to continuing our investment across the North, and we’re seeing towns and cities like Barrow, Grimsby and Liverpool become world-leading hubs for renewable energy. The supply chain for renewables is also going from strength to strength and is now taking advantage of global export opportunities, and the industry is providing long-term, high-skilled jobs for the future.”

Tracey Johnson, lead officer, Barnsley Digital Media Centre, said: “This is the north’s time. We’re agile, innovative and the engine behind a previous industrial revolution so bring on Industry 4.0. This report is the clarion call that others need to take notice of.”