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resilience and renewal

A recipe for growth: Investing for a more productive economy

Author: ICAEW

Published: 26 Sep 2023

Jenny McMillan ACA Head of Finance Northern Block ICAEW member

Long-term investment to build profitable businesses is a crucial part of boosting productivity. A thriving food and drink sector in Leeds is showing the way forward.

For decades, a lack of investment has upset many economic success stories in the UK, and led us to build an economy that is less productive than most other rich countries.. This in turn leads to worse living standards, as our in-depth analysis explains. But there are bright spots amid the gloom. All around the country entrepreneurs are building micro-economies that provide lessons on how to boost investment, and so productivity, at a national scale.

As our film in this theme shows, a group of Leeds-based entrepreneurs and policymakers are one example of those building a thriving local economy. Many of them have set up innovative plant-based food and drinks firms in the past 10 years, and are complemented by the established players that have been in the region for decades, such as Asda, Morrisons and the Co-op.

This growing network allows the smaller businesses to share ideas, to collaborate with the bigger firms and to share an expanding pool of employees with the right skills and experience. The success of this network is leading entrepreneurs to make long-term investments that, in turn, provide higher value, better paid and more fulfilling jobs for those in the local economy. And that is making a real difference to the lives of those in the community, which is the ultimate aim of good economic growth.

Two of these companies are Northern Bloc, an inner-city based ice cream manufacturer, set up by Dirk Mischendahl and Josh Lee (below left and right).

Dirk Mischendahl and Josh Lee owners Northern Bloc ice cream manufacturer

And Mighty, a producer of alternative dairy products, set up by brothers Tom and Nick Watkins (below left and right).

brothers Nick and Tom Watkins Might owners start up alternative dairy products

Northern Bloc’s Head of Finance, Jenny McMillan, ACA, (below) is an ICAEW member and has been an integral part of the senior team that recently made a big capital investment. The funds from this investment have allowed Northern Bloc to move into a 33,000 square foot facility in central Leeds and provided them with more machinery. This allows them to grow the business more quickly, and provide more jobs and careers.

Jenny McMillan ACA Head of Finance Northern Block ICAEW member

Part of the funding for this investment came from the Leeds City Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). While not the only support businesses have to access funds, it has played an important role in local growth. Its success comes from having had a clear strategy for many years to support manufacturers in the region. McMillan worked with Parminder Singh (below) at the LEP to get this funding.

Parminder Singh LEP McMillan funding

Creating a more resilient and productive economy is the best way to improve quality of life across the country. UK business has a crucial role to play and chartered accountants as trusted advisors have an equally important task in advising and supporting them.

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