A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.  It has a five point plan in place. Here Rob Hamilton, Interim Head of Investment for the North of Tyne Combined Authority, explains what work is underway to prepare for recovery in the longer term.

Listen to Rob’s thoughts in this week’s My Friends In The North podcast by PR and management consultant Sarah Waddington: http://myfriendsinthenorth.libsyn.com/rob-hamilton-interim-head-of-investment-for-the-north-of-tyne-combined-authority

In addition to the immediate health impacts of COVID-19, it is clear the economic impacts are driving changes that are unprecedented in recent times and quite profound. Quite correctly, the priority right now for Government and local agencies is to get support to businesses, charities and all those who have been affected and of course support the emergency response in terms of health and social care. But when we look to the future, we need to recognise that in the space of just a few short weeks, we’ve seen long and entrenched economic orthodoxies swept away. It was previously unthinkable to imagine that Government would step in to pay wages or directly support businesses. Therefore, as we plan for the recovery, we need to expect that the world has changed.

Changes in behaviour

For example, retail and travel patterns will never be the same again and consumers have new expectations around communications and technology. Crucially for an area like the North East, issues around globalisation and just in time supply chains need to be considered. It will be interesting to see whether we go back to a world where there are high levels of exporting and importing.

These developments will lead to changes in the way our industries operate but also to careers and skills. These are all areas the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is looking at through strategic scenario planning. This activity requires thinking around how long the current lockdown will be in place, whether this will be lifted gradually and what the economic response will be afterwards. Will there be a new normal or will it take a long period of time? Will many businesses have folded with many people out of work – or will businesses quickly get back on their feet? Our job is to understand the current situation, monitor how this is changing and develop practical plans that we can implement today to improve the outlook for the future. We also need to ensure that the economic recovery is inclusive so the hardest hit are not left behind.

Working as a region-wide team

To achieve all this we are working with the public, private and education sectors, and reaching out to many more partners, including colleges, business membership organisations, unions and voluntary community sector groups. Within the North East we have a legacy of working together. This was an approach we successfully took around preparations for leaving the European Union and I’m confident we’ll see this collaborative approach reap dividends again. While everyone in the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group appreciates how exceptionally challenging it is right now, we are working hard to find a way to transition to the recovery phase as fast as possible and make the case for investment into our regional infrastructure to Government.  We are here to support you all.

To stay up to date with the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group’s progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.