A long and rocky economic road

Workers attend to their tasks at Camperdown Works in Dundee

No one should underestimate the change happening in our region.

This morning, an audience of a couple of hundred will gather at Dundee’s Apex hotel for the sixth Dundee Economic Summit.

I have attended each of the previous five and, before the fact, could probably give you a fairly accurate run down of what will be said, who will be saying it and who will be listening.

That may sound disparaging, but it is not meant to be so.

It is actually a compliment as stable economic development leadership over many years has served Dundee well.

The city and the wider region is undergoing a period of change not seen since the jute mills first started belching out their acrid grey smoke more than a century ago.

Mill owners like the Baxters and the Cairds made huge fortunes for themselves and provided mass employment for a town that previously struggled for a place on the map.

Jute was the making of Dundee as a city – the huge spike in population in the years following the opening of the mills tells you that alone – but it was a messy, difficult and imperfect all-eggs-in-one-basket solution to the city’s many economic ills.

When jute fell, Dundee also fell and you can argue it is still recovering.

It is in that regard that today’s economic summit should be viewed.

As I see it, Dundee’s rebirth began as the RRS Discovery arrived back in the firth of Tay.

It brought a change in mindset and a determination to drag the city and the wider region encompassing it – and the standard of living of its citizens – up by the bootstraps.

Dundee’s new economic ascent began from a low starting point and it has been a long and rocky road since – not least yesterday when Lloyds Banking Group announced it was axing 252 much-needed and valuable contact centre jobs in the city.

It is a grievous blow for the workers and one that will take a long time to recover from.

But we must remember we still have a diverse and vibrant local economy with stand-out successes in the life sciences and games sectors.

No one at the economic summit will try to argue this region is anything like the finished article.

It won’t be when the V&A is open.

It won’t be when we have a Tay Cities Deal signed, sealed and delivered.

But despite huge bumps in the road such as that dealt by Lloyds Banking Group yesterday, what is plain for all to see is the progress that has been made in a relatively short time frame.

Dundee has gone from a forgotten and neglected city to one at the forefront of minds.

It is a city that now garners envious glances.

That’s a position that was inconceivable even 15 years ago.

Today’s summit will go over some familiar ground and the converted will be preached to once more.

But if you see that as an indulgence, it is one that can be forgiven as Dundee and the wider city region looks forward to better times ahead.