While technology has clearly made a huge difference to how easily we can keep in touch with people, and have also had enormous environmental impacts at the same time, there is still no true substitute for meeting up face-to-face or going to see something or, often more importantly, seeing someone yourself – you can email, call and Skype all you like but the need to meet is always there.
In our own business, the need for a deep understanding of the businesses we invest in means these visits are essential, and we wouldn’t dream of investing without building up a relationship and post-investment commit time and energy into regularly visiting these businesses.
In turn, the local businesses we invest in share this ethos, be it jumping in the car to go to see a local customer or making a more extensive journey in relations to the business interests around the globe that are covered in our investee portfolio.
Visiting the rest of the world, and having the option to make these journeys as efficiently and easily as possible, is an essential part of the long-term success of the North East economy, which is why two recent infrastructure announcements have such importance attached to them for the region.
The long-awaited recommendation for an additional runway for Heathrow as the best means of increasing air capacity in the South East might not at first sight appear to be a regional issue, but access to fast connections is vital to the growth of North East firms.
While still very important, regional markets for the goods our businesses make must, by their very nature, be limited, and having the infrastructure in place while allows them to be sent to customers elsewhere in the UK and overseas has to be a regional priority.
Newcastle Airport has pledged to develop new routes from the North East which will help to boost the regional economy by £4 billion.
World class customers require and indeed demand world class service, and that means our own world class businesses need access to transport routes that will enable them to go up against global competitors and create new wealth back here in their home region.
The ability to visit, sometimes speedily, a customer can make the difference between winning and keeping customers and contracts, or not doing so. Having more routes out of Newcastle and an additional runway for Heathrow would provide a greater range of connections to the world for our portfolio of investees and the wider North East business community.
Details of how everything will come together are yet to be announced, but they should be eagerly awaited in the boardrooms of the North East.