I am delighted that the Tour de France is opening in Yorkshire this summer. It is fitting that the county that did Britain so proud during the Olympics – winning 12 medals – will be doing Britain proud once again.
Having the Grand Depart in Yorkshire is good news for so many reasons. It’s going to inspire children across the county to start cycling and get fit. It means a brilliant – and free – day out for the family. And for communities across the county, the direct economic impact of this event is massive. It is forecast that the Grand Depart and third stage from Cambridge to London will generate over £100 million for the country’s economy and I hope businesses right along the route reap the benefits.
But for me, the most exciting part of this event is that it will act as a showcase for all Yorkshire has to offer. Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be watching the spectacle unfold in what many Yorkshire men and women like to call God’s Own Country – and they’re going to see 2 things.
First, that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world – and a fantastic place to come and visit. There’s the rugged beauty of the Dales, the expanses of the Peak District in the South, the stately charms of Harrogate – and of course the stunning coastline, from Withernsea to Whitby. For those looking for history, you can walk the medieval streets of York, explore Bronte country or visit old mill towns like Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For foodies, there are more Michelin-starred restaurants here in Yorkshire than in any other area outside London – plus some of the best curry restaurants you’ll find anywhere in the UK. Little wonder that this region has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 places in the world to visit, up there with Texas and the West Coast of New Zealand. Yorkshire truly is an amazing destination for visitors – now it’s time to show it off.
Second, people around the world will see that this is a dynamic place to work and do business, with a real mix of new and old industries – manufacturing, tech, agriculture, finance and green energy are all strong here, with good investment opportunities and major growth potential in each. Hull is leading in renewable energy. Leeds is our largest financial services centre outside London. Sheffield is building on its proud manufacturing past with a new wave of advanced engineering firms. And we have seen a lot of good news for jobs in the region in recent years – from Siemens announcing that they are going to create 1,000 jobs at a wind turbine plant in Hull and East Riding, to private sector employment increasing by 110,000 since the election, and unemployment falling significantly too.
So in short, this is a great time to show off Yorkshire. The world is going to see a part of the UK that has stunning beauty and successful businesses; that has a fascinating history and a bright future. I encourage people across Yorkshire to seize on the opportunities offered by this race – and to enjoy the show.