The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of “offshoring”, companies moving functions (and jobs) overseas to places such as India and China to save costs. This was illustrated a few years ago when I needed to speak to a manager at a High Street bank whose office was about 30 yards away from mine. I called him and eventually got through but only after going via Hyderabad.
Much offshoring will carry on but many companies are now looking to bring back to or keep jobs in the UK, for all sorts of reasons (such as rising wages overseas, quality concerns and lack of access/communications). For example, Freshfields, one of the largest city law firms in the UK has announced it is to open an office in Manchester. Much of the support work can be carried out at a fraction of the cost of London. Some of the jobs can be at a much higher level than the traditional “call centre” type jobs. This process has been dubbed “northshoring”.
This trend of keeping work in the UK presents opportunities for areas such as Lancaster and Morecambe.
Whilst the larger cities in the north (and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are always going to attract the bulk of northshorers, the Lancaster and Morecambe area has a number of attractions. These include lower costs, better quality of life and, most importantly, the presence of two Universities with thousands of educated potential workers. We are just over two hours away from London on the train and just over an hour from Manchester Airport and technology means location is less of an issue. If we want to attract such opportunities and business, we need to get our act together as an area. If you look at Manchester and Liverpool they have dedicated teams to attract these efforts. We need to have a clear message about the advantages of Lancaster and Morecambe with the support of the council, the Universities, the Chamber and the private sector working together.