For a variety of reasons 2015 has so far been a big year for Service Network. At the start of the year we had to change the governance of the business when Entrust ceased to trade. Perhaps not the best start to the New Year, but with a huge amount of work from Hilary Florek PR and BeaconHouse Events not only are we back on track, we have now re-launched the website to mark our twentieth anniversary – a huge thanks to our team for everything they have done.
Over the past months there has been some debate as to whether 2015 is really the twentieth anniversary of Service Network. I can confirm that it definitely is....sort of. Here is a potted history.
I was around in 1994/1995 when the concept first came to fruition, although originally it was called Services Challenge (the name change came in 2000). At the time the body for economic regeneration (NDC) was supporting an initiative called Manufacturing Challenge which aimed to double manufacturing and treble exporting. Services Challenge was partly to counter the image that the North East was all about manufacturing and partly to retain talent in the North East. At its core the message was simple – encourage all organisations to source their professional services within the Region and create a vibrant service sector which would mean talented graduates would not be tempted to leave the North East.
The fact that the network is still going twenty years later with the same core aims shows that there is an ongoing need for a Network to exist to represent the North East's service sector. And much has been achieved in our sector over the past twenty years.
In 1995 it was estimated that over half the quoted companies in the Region did not use local professional service providers. Now every single quoted company and major inward investor sources at least some of their professional services in the Region. In the first ever economic plan for the Region there was not a single mention of the service sector, even though it contributes an estimated 40% of the Region’s GVA. Now both LEP areas have recognised the importance of the sector in their Strategic Economic Plans. These successes in raising the importance of professional services in the regional economy do not mean we can be complacent. 2015 will see negotiations begin for devolved powers as well as on the so-called Northern Powerhouse. It is fair to say that at this point in time colleagues in the public sector have not consulted as widely as they could with the professional services sector, so the challenge will be to continue to have our voice heard and ensure there is recognition of what the sector contributes to the economy, as well as trying to help shape the future of the North East. Neil Warwick, Chair of Service Network
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