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For sale – 1,500 football pitches, or 1,820 Rugby League pitches as they might like to say in our region’s city Hull.

Well that’s the challenge – to market and help unlock the equivalent employment land in the Humber located next to ports, motorway routes and rail as part of my role on the Humber LEP’s Investment and Regulation Board. The region’s strong advantages of connectivity to the UK and Europe presents a vital opportunity for new businesses moving to the Humber.

However, we are not talking about land that the Humber LEP directly owns or controls, but sites owned by a variety developers or organisations that have become part of the Humber Enterprise Zone (EZ). An effective partnership with the owners helped by the work of the LEP and UKTI can create a strong offer for the Humber.

The major expansion of the Humber EZ announced by the chancellor set out in the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement, saw the zone officially increase from 484ha, which was already the UK’s largest, to 1,238ha this month.

The extension bid led by the LEP in collaboration with its four local authority areas – East Riding, Hull, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire – and agreed with the Department and for Communities and Local Government means that businesses that locate on the new sites will be entitled to a business rate discount or enhanced capital allowances for investment in plant and machinery. This will help to attract businesses to the sites which, in turn, supports the creation of jobs.

Crucially, the region is able to retain 100 per cent of the business rate growth for 25 years to reinvest, creating the infrastructure to support investment alongside the role we are playing in leading the marketing and supporting the development of the sites.  The opportunity to make the Humber a vital part of the Northern Powerhouse is considerable.

Now comprising more than 40 sites, the scale of the Humber EZ is matched by the scale of the opportunity for investors in the region.

The Humber Enterprise Zone already offers space for offshore wind Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and their supply chains to co-locate to make cost reductions on a major scale at Able Marine Energy Park and Green Port Hull, as well as the UK’s largest development sites available adjacent to  a deep water port at Able Marine Energy Park and Paull.

While sites at the Port of Grimsby, the closest port to the North Sea windfarms are in a rapidly growing Operations and Maintenance centre for the offshore wind industry.

There are prime sites for logistics, food and advanced manufacturing on uncongested transport routes including land adjacent to the ports of Grimsby and Immingham, the UK’s busiest port by cargo tonnage, and Goole, the UK’s furthest inland port.

The extension to the Humber EZ opens up new opportunities with development land next to Humberside Airport, which is the UK’s second busiest heliport, serving the offshore wind, oil and gas industries as well as affordable city centre sites in Hull, UK City of Culture for 2017, which are more closely linked to the service and creative industry sectors.

We are working on our delivery plan as part of a long term strategy for the sites which span both banks of the Humber, in the four local authority areas, as we get better acquainted with the main landowners and the infrastructure needs of the sites.

We’re working with local authorities, private sector and government agencies, such as in my own as the Head of Area for the Homes and Communities Agency, to invest in the Humber’s infrastructure not just at these sites but also more broadly in partnership such as in flood defences and road improvements to create the conditions to support growth.

The momentum has gathered from the when the Humber EZ was first announced in 2012 to where we are now launching the extension. With construction underway at Able Marine Energy Park and Green Port Hull, and the HCA’s own investment in road and infrastructure at Goole36 we expect to see a quick rise in the number of construction jobs and employment positions which currently stand at 118 and 171 respectively.  There are 18 companies on the zone so far mainly centred around Brough, Grimsby and Hull’s now full Marfleet Technology Park.

This momentum is matched by significant investment already happening to support the development of infrastructure including through the Humber LEP’s Growth Deal which is delivered in collaboration with partners.

The timing of  getting these sites ready for market is crucial which is where the strong partnerships we have developed will be invaluable.

Getting this right coupled with the right business support through our Business Growth Hub and the right skills support has the ability to drive growth and create highly skilled sustainable jobs for the future.

So if you want to speak to us about what your EZ site needs or has to offer or have questions about locating your business on the Humber EZ, call the Humber LEP team on (01482) 485260.