We're getting bigger but we're also getting better

Article by Cllr Frank Ross, Convener of the Economy Committee, in today's Evening News. He examines what challenges must be met to ensure future prosperity for the residents flocking to live in Edinburgh as the latest census shows population growth.

The census statistics published this week are proof of Edinburgh 's popularity as a place to live.

Edinburgh 's population grew by 6.3 per cent between 2001 and 2011, compared to 4.6 per cent growth across Scotland as a whole.

It is projected that Edinburgh 's population will continue to grow reaching 543,785 by the end of the decade and surpassing 600,000 in 2033.

Edinburgh 's prosperity has attracted large amounts of inward investment making it an easy place to attract highly-skilled, highly-mobile workers.

Last year Edinburgh was also second only to London in the UK for foreign direct investment, attracting 34 projects creating almost 2,000 new jobs. This is all supported by our award earlier this year when Edinburgh was ranked as the  Best Large City in Europe for foreign direct investment in fDi's European Cities and Regions of the Future awards 2012/13.

In the latest European Cities Monitor produced by Cushman and Wakefield , business executives named the 'availability of qualified staff' as the second most important factor when choosing where to locate a business. The ability to attract and retain highly-skilled workers from elsewhere in the UK and from overseas is vital for Edinburgh to remain internationally competitive.

Population growth is an indication of how successful the city economy is and shows people from all over the world want to live and work here.

Edinburgh was resilient during the banking crisis and bounced back well but in tough economic times we can't be complacent. With growing pressure on council resources, we need to invest where we will have the most impact and creating jobs for this growing population is our number one priority.

One statistic that always jumps out at me is the demand for jobs in Edinburgh is projected to grow at around twice the rate as the supply of jobs over the next few years. In response, our recently launched Strategy for Jobs aims to support the creation of 20,000 jobs between 2012 and 2017.

As well as attracting inward investment, supporting existing businesses is also at the heart of our Strategy for Jobs. We have just opened a one-stop-shop for businesses in Waverley Court , our headquarters, which was officially opened by Sir Tom Farmer earlier this month.

The good news here is that business start-ups are on the increase. They rose to a level above the pre-recession peak (in 2007) and the latest available figure, for 2011, was 50.98 per 10,000 adult population. This is higher than the Scottish average at 39.02.

For those in work, wages in the city are also attractive. Gross earnings have grown consistently year on year throughout the recession. In 2011 earnings in Edinburgh were 9.9% above the Scottish average.

We are addressing jobs and training for young people through the Edinburgh Guarantee. The vision is that all sectors of the city work together to ensure that every school leaver in Edinburgh will have the choice of a job, training or further education. It is of vital importance to the future economic health of the city that the Edinburgh Guarantee succeeds.

I must also recognise that population growth does also bring some challenges in terms of housing and infrastructure.

One of the Capital Coalition's pledges is to make sure the city's people are well housed, including encouraging developers to build residential communities, starting with brownfield sites. We hope to achieve this by working with the Scottish Government to release more funds for housing associations and council homes for rent and ownership, the establishment of a task force to bring empty homes into use and by encouraging the development of cooperative housing arrangements.

My job now is to rise to the challenge and ensure that we find jobs for people coming to Edinburgh so they can contribute positively to the economy. 

So you can see from all of these facts that Edinburgh really is a good place to live, work, study, visit and most importantly to invest in.

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