Sir Howard Bernstein addressed a gathering of business leaders organised by contractor Willmott Dixon to outline how Manchester is responding to the challenge of remaining one of the world’s top 100 cities.

The city is currently ranked 63rd in an index of leading world cities and Sir Howard used Wilmott Dixon’s event on localism to spell out how he intends for Manchester to remain a leader in the face of growing competition from cities in countries like China.

Sir Howard says, “People and skills are absolutely the focus for us. It’s about working with private sector partners to increase the numbers of people in our city who have the opportunity to make more of an economic contribution to our growth. That includes equipping people with the right skills needed by our city and creating an environment to attract and retain skilled young people who come to study here.”

Manchester City Council’s CEO outlined how Greater Manchester is spending £1.2bn of local money on infrastructure improvement and has struck an innovative deal with Government that allows this investment to be ‘earned back’ as the local economy grows. This will be reinvested in further growth projects. New investment models are being developed to encourage private sector development including using public sector land and assets, and a pipeline of projects is in place to deliver growth across the city. A unique joint venture is being developed with the Green Investment Bank to turn our low carbon proposals into market ready investment proposals.

“We also need recognition from Whitehall that our country is divided up into 8-9 local labour markets and you cannot address all our growth ambitions from one centralised approach. It has to be a locally tailored solution with a real spatial focus and our team at Manchester are working closely with colleagues at other local authorities within the Greater Manchester area to drive growth by reforming our public model to take more people away from benefit dependency and reduce duplication and red tape that inhibits private investment,” said Sir Howard.

Also speaking was environmental campaigner Jonathon Porritt who said that China aimed to take a 40% slice of the booming market for low carbon/renewable technology that’s growing by over 10% a year. David Roberts, deputy CEO at developer Igloo, also spoke about the role of companies like his in bringing property investment forward while Willmott Dixon Capital Works CEO John Frankiewicz unveiled to the industry leaders conclusions into far reaching research conducted by Willmott Dixon into local authorities’ attitude to investment and growth following the Localism Act.

Afterwards, Willmott Dixon’s managing director in Manchester, Anthony Dillon, said, “Sir Howard’s points paved the way for a frank and productive discussion among businesses, housing providers and local authorities that invest in property and create wealth to see how we can meet Manchester’s needs to be competitive in the 21st century.”

The event, held at Manchester Town Hall, was a chance for business leaders to explore how they can use the current Localism Act to work better together to create opportunities for investment in Manchester.

Willmott Dixon, which employs over 125 people in Greater Manchester and has an office in Hollinwood Business Centre, is involved in a £70 million programme of work in Oldham to create three new academies and is also on site in Cheetham building the new World Irish Heritage Centre.