One of the region’s most respected leaders has been awarded an OBE for services to business and the regional economy.
Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list, which marks the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK.
Under Helen’s leadership, partner engagement with the North East LEP and the region’s Strategic Economic Plan has helped deliver over 71,000 jobs since 2014 and the employment gap between the North East and England (excluding London) has reduced by 26%.
Helen has been instrumental in securing over £2 billion investment for the region, resulting in the delivery of 140 capital and 40 revenue projects securing 20,000 more jobs for the region.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen Helen play a leading role in the region’s response, bringing together the public, private, education and voluntary sectors to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group. The Group’s work secured region-wide support for a staged recovery plan to build confidence, stabilise the economy and help businesses adapt to the new normal.
Helen has been Chair of the £120m North East Fund since its inception in 2016 and helped design this important access to finance initiative to ensure SMEs could raise the start-up and growth capital needed. During her time as the chief executive of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), she cemented public private relationships to drive forward economic plans together.
Helen said: “I feel proud and humbled to be recognised in this way. I would like to dedicate this honour to the whole team at the North East LEP, who strive to increase investment and improve skills, job opportunities and purposeful business support across the North East to improve the lives of others.
“Focused, collaborative work with partners has never been more important as we emerge from the pandemic, and I feel privileged to play a role in responding to the economic impact and opportunities that lie ahead for our very special region.”
Lucy Winskell OBE DL, chair of the North East LEP, said: “Helen is utterly deserving of this honour, having worked quietly but tirelessly to advocate for the North East at the highest levels and ensure that the business community has what it needs to not just survive but thrive.
“Extremely well respected, Helen’s vision and commitment is inspiring – it’s a privilege to work alongside her as we focus on our joint ambition to help the region succeed.”
North East LEP vice-chair Heidi Mottram added: “This accolade is a real achievement and is testament to the leadership and innovation Helen has shown. Thanks to her efforts, the North East LEP is recognised as a national exemplar for its work in skills and business growth. We’re delighted for her.”
Sarah Glendinning, CBI regional director, said: “Helen has always had the region’s best interests at heart and her work continues to make a genuine and measurable difference within the business community and to the economy. Despite the significance of her contribution, Helen is incredibly unassuming so it’s even more fantastic to see her receive this personal recognition and honour.”