THE BLOG

Yorkshire Day Shining A Light On How Investment In The North Is Boosting The Economy Piece By Piece

01/08/2017 13:41
Terry Roberts Photography via Getty Images

Nobody does the "good ol' days" quite like Yorkshire folk.

Few other counties hold the lives of our forefathers and foremothers in such high esteem; in fact, I guarantee you that as Yorkshire Day progresses today, more and more images of the yesteryear north will make their way on to social media. So, if you want to know more about what we used to do well, today is a great day to research.

It's important to stress that this is no bad thing; the county's heritage is rich and fascinating. Just last month, I was extremely privileged to be appointed as Chair of a charitable trust that is helping to bring to life one of the grandest and most fascinating architectural creations in the county - The Piece Hall.

Located in Halifax, The Piece Hall was built in 1779 as a venue at which to sell cloth made in the hills and valleys dotted around the town. The land was provided by local businessman John Caygill while money was raised for the building works through a subscription scheme. The subscribers were the clothiers who would eventually call the 315 rooms on site their trading offices.

For years, these same businessmen would bring their cloth pieces - each a full 30 yards long - down the Packhorse Trails to the town for storage before selling off their wares between 10am to 12pm every Saturday morning.

The Piece Hall was a statement of intent on Halifax's part; the grandest of all the cloth halls in the country and, today, the only remaining building of its kind in the UK. Calderdale Council funded and carried out the transformation programme, aided by a generous £7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund - thanks to National Lottery players - and kind support from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation. As Chair of the Trust that has worked so hard on the reopening, it is a proud day to say we're back and we're open on this most special of events - Yorkshire Day.

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Image Credit: The Piece Hall - Matt Radcliffe

But what's equally interesting for me is not just what The Piece Hall started out as and stood for, for almost 240 years ago but what it is today. As I look out on it, it mirrors what's going on in Yorkshire and, more specifically, the Leeds City Region itself as we work to build our own grand future.

For while yesteryear Yorkshire had cloth makers, mills and packhorses, in the modern day we have FinTech, MedTech, digital innovation and a dynamic creative and cultural scene.

In the past we have attracted visitors and businesses as a result of activity such as that conducted at The Piece Hall; today, we can boast that our innovation and talent are the attractors, with businesses such as international fashion brand Burberry and pharmaceutical giant Covance. In fact this year the region was proud to record its highest levels of FDI according to EY's Annual Attractiveness Survey.
But where do we go from here? What's our next step?

Long-term and sustainable economic and business growth goes hand in hand with improving skills and access to better jobs, committing to climate change adaptation and green infrastructure as well as a transport system that connects every person in the city region to each other and the rest of the country. It is my hope that by focusing on these core aims and by bringing our three million residents and 119,000 businesses with us through true, inclusive growth, we can transform the focus of Yorkshire Day from one which is about remembering the past to one where we celebrate our heritage and also look at where we're going.

Visit The Piece Hall website for more information on its history and the fantastic events that will take place in the inaugural reopening year; or visit the Invest Leeds City Region site to find out more about trade and investment opportunities in the city region.

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