Make It York’s Managing Director, Sean Bullick, discusses the challenges facing York’s businesses and how we can work together to plan the recovery phase across all sectors…
Make It York held our first virtual Board meeting at the end of last month and the first item on the agenda was, of course, how we are supporting York’s business community during this challenging time. The answer to that, is working flat out to help companies secure the grants and loans they need to survive. Where businesses aren’t eligible for reasons of sector, size or structure, we are instead gathering the evidence and making the case for additional, targeted assistance. We’re also providing advice on everything from furloughing staff and developing access to alternative finance options, to business continuity and adapting business models to cope with the crisis.
It wasn’t long however before the “R” word: recovery, became the focus of the conversation. This is both recovery for Make It York as an organisation, but also primarily recovery for the city and region, and what that might look like: what changes will the crisis have catalyzed, what will be the same and what will be different, what are the common opportunities and those which are specific to York, where will changes be only temporary and where will they be permanent?
Now for Make It York, the answers are relatively simple: we will continue to provide support to businesses in the city along with partners, including the city council, albeit in an evolved form. We will refocus our resources on promoting York as a place to do business, and of course as a world-class destination. We are also starting to plan how we can create a buzz with a range of high-quality events bringing our residents back into the city centre and attracting visitors from further afield once lockdown restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to do so.
Questions of how the city and the economy bounce back, and how people work, live and behave are of course though more fundamental. And there are lots of them: what does all this mean for York’s economy and could, or should, it spur further diversification? Does the crisis make the delivery of York Central even more important? How will our visitor attractions cope with the challenges of social distancing and do those challenges come with any opportunities? What is the scope for our public services to adapt their use of technology to enhance their services? Will the experience of our cultural and creative organisations and businesses allow them to establish additional commercial revenue streams? How will recovery timelines differ from sector to sector? What will be the impact of more blended learning for students and the universities? What have we learned about the benefits of relying on a regional supply chain in a crisis and can this be used to develop stronger regional economic ecosystems? Should York be taking a lead from cities like Milan and considering a post-crisis permanent exclusion of cars from the centre of York? How are open spaces and the city’s parks used and viewed differently, and by whom? What is the likely impact on office space demand of increased home and flexible working?
Working with businesses across the city to answer some of these questions is why we’re setting up a series of virtual roundtables – in partnership with York BID, City of York Council, Federation of Small Business, York & North Yorkshire Chamber Of Commerce and the Local Economic Partnership – for twelve different sectors in York’s business community. Together we are calling for businesses to take part in these new sector steering groups to develop the city’s recovery planning.
If your business would like to contribute to this collaborative effort, please get in touch with our business team via firstname.lastname@example.org
The next few months will be undoubtedly challenging for us all, as we face a very different future to the one we imagined at the start of 2020, but now is the ideal time for us to come together and make changes to protect our economy and the city that we live and work in.