Availability of graduates, transport links and the perception of the region have all improved in the past two years according to research carried out by pollster Ipsos MORI.
Other highlights of the findings were:
- 34% of UK residents had a positive overall perception of the region (2001: 22%)
- 45% of North West businesses feel their region has improved as a place to do business in the last two years
- 28% of firms in the North West said good infrastructure and transport links were the main strengths of the region; 26% said a competitive business environment; 19% said availability of grants; 13% skilled/efficient labour.
The survey of 3,800 people across the country was commissioned by the North West Development Agency.
Previous studies were conducted by MORI in 2001, 2003 and 2006, making it the longest piece of research into perception of places in the UK, the NWDA claimed.
The region also performed strongly as a tourist destination, with 89% of residents agreeing that the North West is a good place for visitors. North West residents said the cultural provision had improved since 2006 (57% agreeing).
Not surprisingly, more respondents than previously were pessimistic about the economic outlook for the year ahead. Peter Mearns, executive director of marketing and communications at the NWDA, said: "Whilst the changing economic climate has undoubtedly had an impact on perceptions of the region's economic outlook, as is the case with the national economy, the main message from the findings is that confidence in the region amongst regional and UK residents, businesses and opinion formers remain high.
"We must continue to build on this shift in perception going forward and take every opportunity to ensure it maintains momentum."
Ipsos MORI carried out the survey between November 2008 and February 2009 as follows: North West residents: 1040 residents aged 16+ interviewed face-to-face in-home; GB residents: Questions were placed on Ipsos MORI's nationally representative Public Affairs Monitor. 1,782 interviews conducted face-to-face in-home; North West Opinion Leaders: 45 semi-structured telephone interviews; UK Opinion Leaders: 30 semi-structured telephone interviews; North West businesses: 500 telephone interviews; UK businesses: 500 telephone interviews