Read our new manifesto
Future 50 Banner

Yorkshire Forward's McFarlane remains upbeat about regional business

Stuart McFarlane from Yorkshire Forward has told The Drum he is upbeat about the region's creative and digital businesses despite predicting more public sector cuts.

McFarlane is digital and new media sector manager at the regional development agency, which is being wound down over the next year as part of the government's purging of quangos.

He opened today's Media Marketplace conference in Leeds by talking about the "unprecedented" growth the region's creative economy had enjoyed over the last decade.

Its creative and digital sector employed more than 115,000 people in 2009 and its businesses accounted for 7 percent of the region's economy.

"As a region we truly can claim that we have the fastest growing sector in the English regions, growing even faster than London," McFarlane told the audience at Elland Road.

He lamented the closure of his own organisation and bodies such as Business Link, which have helped creative businesses get off the ground, but said he still had confidence in the sector's future.

He told The Drum: "The growth figures will undoubtedly be different in 2011 than they were in 2009 and I do fear that the North could suffer from a double dip recession, but what this sector has built up over the last 10 years is critical mass and that gives me hope for the future.

"When I speak to agencies I ask them how the books are looking and they say that not too much has changed from a year ago. When I ask them how many staff they have it's usually lower than a year ago, either through redundancies or from natural wastage.

"What's critical is whether they can continue to get the sales in the books. When the government's austerity measures kick in and public sector work dries up that will have a large impact on agencies. But I do believe the region now has enough critical mass to survive any setbacks."