The Yorkshire character, particularly the love of hard work and thrift, proved to be the major point of discussion for the 21 delegates gathered at Ripley Castle for the Management Today regional lunch in October.
The Ripley delegates were mainly professional advisers to Yorkshire business and they saw these traits both in the large number of well-established firms and in the number of local quoted companies.
John Dyson, of Leeds stockbrokers BWD Rensburg, made the point in his analysis of the Yorkshire and Humberside region. There are some 125 local companies quoted on the stock market, while the more densely populated North West "has less than 100".
For David Wilkinson of 3i, the great strength of Yorkshire and Humberside business was its local ownership and control. Martin Shaw of solicitors' Simpson Curtis went further and contrasted the relative lack of dynamism of businessmen in the South West with those in Yorkshire. "There is a commitment and determination about Yorkshire business people. They are terrifically competitive." This commitment is embodied in some star companies of the last decade, notably Bill Rooney's Spring Ram kitchens and bathrooms business and Polypipe, the plastics group. "In the CBI Business Enterprise Awards, Yorkshire companies have won on four occasions in the last 12 years," said Brian Bigly of the local CBI.
But what impresses the professionals is the way the local business infrastructure has developed. "If you stand in the centre of Leeds in City Square, you can get any sort of professional advice you may need within two minutes," was one comment.
The audience was, however, in no doubt that the recession had taken its toll though not on the same scale as in the South. With a diversified base, the local economy is better able to handle a down-turn. There are definite signs of recovery. "Leeds and Humberside are providing exceptionally fine business today. The phones are ringing for repeat business as people want to replace the skills that have disappeared," says Sue Blower of headhunters Hoggett Bowers.
And the old image of the North, she feels, is changing. "It's not as difficult to attract people to Yorkshire as it once was. Four years ago, a southerner moving north was a relative rarity. Now they want to stay for the quality of life."