Whether or not you agree with the recent decision by the people of the UK to leave the European Union one thing is for sure, that it is beholden on us all to extract the maximum possible opportunity for the UK from what happens next. Our great country has led the way in trade and growth for many years and large parts of the globe are looking for us to continue to lead from outside the EU.
Theresa May has been clear that BREXIT means BREXIT but also, on the steps of Downing Street, that the whole nation is going to be involved in the opportunity and the response. As a region renowned for innovation, trade and manufacturing Greater Manchester should be at the heart of a new vision for British growth.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), made up of the 10 Greater Manchester Council Leaders, have jointly set out a bold intention for Greater Manchester to bid to be the host city region of the 2025 Universal Exposition, or Expo 2025 for short. Expo is a truly global event that showcases education, shares innovation, promotes progress and fosters cooperation. Countries and companies from across the world are invited to participate. The proposed site of the Expo is Ashton Moss, to the east of the conurbation in my home borough of Tameside.
Without hesitation, and as GMCA’s lead for Investment, I give my full backing to Greater Manchester’s bid, and I hope that the Government will do the same. To host an event of this scale requires a track record of delivery and clear evidence of effective partnerships between the public and private sectors, alongside real community involvement. Here in Greater Manchester we have those key ingredients in abundance.
I cannot overemphasise what an incredible opportunity this would be for Greater Manchester. I’m sure that most of us remember the Commonwealth Games coming to Manchester in 2002, an event that brought £600 million of investment, created 20,000 jobs and left us with community assets like the Velodrome, National Squash Centre and the Manchester Aquatics Centre. The economic return and potential legacy of an event like Expo 2025 will make this look like small fry. The previous Expo in Milan was visited by over 22 million people over six months, generating an economic return of almost £7 billion. There is no bigger event that a city can host.
The lasting legacy of new infrastructure and housing, to name just two, makes Expo the greatest engine of economic growth we could wish for – and an opportunity for us to lead the way in promoting Greater Manchester and the UK internationally in the post-Brexit era where new trade links will be essential.
Almost as importantly, Expos in the past have been where we’ve seen the first glimpse of innovations and technologies that shaped and will continue to shape our lives. Things like the telephone (Philadelphia, 1876), escalators (Paris, 1900), electric cars (Osaka, 1970) and IMAX cinemas (Spokane, 1974) were first seen at Expos across the decades. With Greater Manchester’s proud industrial heritage and its modern advancements in areas like graphene, who knows what technologies of the future we could get our first glimpse of at Expo 2025. Innovations that I believe will spark a revolution in international trade, particularly in the digital, technology and advanced manufacturing industries.
And what will a successful Expo bid give the people of Greater Manchester? Even at this early stage, we know that it will lead to investment and publicity for Greater Manchester on a scale that would be unimaginable under any other circumstances. That means massive economic growth. That means apprenticeships, training and jobs for a generation of residents. That means setting up world-class infrastructure, not just roads, rail and utilities, but hotels, houses and leisure parks as well. It would show everybody else what we already know that Greater Manchester is an area that the world should stand up and take notice of. But the benefits don’t stop at the boundaries of Greater Manchester. Expo 2025 will be at the heart of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and will have a positive impact across the north from Liverpool in the west, through Leeds and Sheffield, to Hull in the east.
This will not be a short process. The deadline for formal bids has been set at autumn 2017, with the final decision being made a year later. The first step is for us to become the host area for the UK bid. I encourage the Government to consider seriously Greater Manchester as the host city for the UKs bid for Expo 2025. Look at our track record, look at our ambition. Gives us the opportunity and we will deliver.