Nik Hardy is Head of Economic Growth at Allerdale Borough Council. He joined the council in 2015 from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, where he was Operations Manager. Nik already held an individual IED membership when he arrived at Allerdale but is now a beneficiary of the organisation’s corporate membership.
“I initially joined the IED for two reasons: firstly, the jobs I was considering at the time required professional accreditation so having the MIED designation after my name was essential; and secondly, I was looking for further study in the economic development field and that drew me into the IED,” Nik said. “As a council, the main value of our membership is the access to information, knowing what is happening and where, and briefings. The Job Board is also useful to see who is recruiting to what types of roles, and I have used the Consultants Directory for small pieces of work. With our corporate membership, I personally gain access to all the benefits outlined for individual membership plus others.”
One of those additional benefits is a free self-assessment toolkit for the Excellence in Economic Development Standard. “In my early days we did the self-assessment and completed 90% of it before realising we need to change something here,” Nik recalled. “As a result, we have moved from a generic economic development strategy to a more focused and robust business growth strategy. In our area we only have 60 businesses with over 50 employees so our focus is on building stronger relationships with these businesses with the objective of helping them thrive. That whole process sparked by the IED provided us with professional challenge, and once we have completed a few more changes we will go through the self-assessment again to benchmark progress.”
Nik is directly responsible for estates management, new deals (asset management plan and stimulating development in commercial and industrial property) and an economic growth team including town centre managers. He said the IED corporate membership had opened doors to intelligence and best practice in other parts of the UK that they may not have gained otherwise. “Cumbria is very remote and there are no other economic development meetings around so the IED networks are so important, especially around the Northern Powerhouse which is helping us to engage in that agenda,” he explained. “It gives us access to things that are going on, and we are engaging more and more through events including the IED annual conference in London and IED Manchester conference.”
Context provided through the IED’s network of like-minded organisations is also a major benefit of the corporate membership package, Nik said: “The bulk of work in economic development is sourcing ideas from others and applying the context of that work in the locality. As a district council we are really small, and whilst it is great to hear about £10 million regeneration projects in London, we need to identify opportunities and best practice that works for us. We built 300 homes last year, which for us is a great achievement, so we’re looking for little ideas not just big ones. The IED network gives us that insight, the membership is good value for money and it provides an excellent service.”