Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership explains how it works to improve prosperity
Last month I gave you an overview of what the LEP does and a brief outline of what we’ve achieved so far. This month I want to focus on one of the main ways we aim improve prosperity – and that’s by attracting inward investment by companies from outside of the area to relocate here, and developing opportunities for local businesses to re-invest and grow. As with much of what we do, a key part is about working across many partners.
Since the LEP started in 2011 the figures for inward investment have risen exponentially. Back then there was no single point of contact that could deal with enquiries from potential foreign direct investors, or even from other UK companies looking to relocate here. This made it difficult for potential investors to know who to approach. Since then the LEP has worked with the local authorities so we now work together as a partnership, sharing best practice across our area and working together with critical organisations like the Department for International Trade. By working together and playing to our strengths, the Heart of the South West presents a stronger package of investment opportunities allowing us to compete more effectively.
Whilst we have a relatively high rate of employment, earnings remain low compared to other parts of the UK, so by attracting new investment from higher value sectors we aim to raise salary levels which in turn generates more wealth for local businesses.
The Department for International Trade’s figures for the number of companies setting up businesses here from abroad have been on a steady increase since this LEP and local authority partnership was established.
In 2016/17 there were 16 successful FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects, an increase of 45% on the previous year. Through these investments 688 new jobs have been created and 1009 jobs safeguarded. One example is US-headquartered customer service firm Sitel which will create hundreds of jobs with its new workforce based in The Ship in Derriford.
In addition, the LEP area secured 6 ‘multi-region’ FDI projects, which are companies that land in more than one UK location. Before the LEP was set up in the year 2010/11 there were only three successful projects, creating 30 new jobs and safeguarding 40.
When people ask what the LEP is doing that really makes a difference, partnership working is near the top of the list. By bringing organisations together, we can achieve things that benefit the whole area that couldn’t be matched by individual organisations working on their own. This applies to both securing direct funding and through influencing Government and other key stakeholders to ensure investment in our priorities. Some of our most effective partnerships involve a number of LEPs and many private and public sector bodies. Here is a brief overview of some of these initiatives that we’re working on; these include helping our businesses access markets through addressing better connectivity, or harnessing opportunities in specific sectors such as nuclear and aerospace.
Road, Rail and Broadband – Delivering Better Connectivity for the Heart of the South West
Connectivity is critical to the south west peninsula for attracting new businesses and sustaining existing ones. We’ve suffered decades of under-investment in road and rail, and the area has some pockets of poor broadband or mobile connection. Now there are public and private sector partnerships working together to reverse this under-investment. The Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) is making the case to Government for more investment in our rail network, and the Connecting Devon and Somerset initiative is the largest broadband improvement scheme in the UK,
There’s a full report produced by the PRTF and the main asks are to improve resilience, reliability, speed and capacity. Resilience and reliability are dependent on improving the main line at Dawlish and a series of flood alleviation works across the southern rail network. The speed of the network in this region needs to be increased to reduce journey times to the capital and other parts of the UK, and passengers could make use of a better journey experience with a reliable Wi-Fi and mobile signal. Securing these investments and delivering a better rail service take many years and it is only by working together that we can collectively present a strong voice to Government.
In addition to the PRTF, the LEP is part of the Greater Connected partnership, who produced an independent, business-led review on connectivity in the South West, endorsed by the CBI and the five South West Local Enterprise Partnerships: Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly; Dorset; Heart of the South West; Swindon & Wiltshire and the West of England LEP. It aims to get more government investment in the three essential infrastructure requirements of the region: road, rail and broadband. The full Greater Connected report is on our website.
Finally, to tackle broadband specifically, we’re part of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) partnership, which is bringing next generation broadband to areas where the market has failed to invest. CDS is a public-private partnership which draws on the strengths of each sector to bring superfast broadband to Devon and Somerset. More information about CDS is on the dedicated website where businesses and residents can find out what new services are available in their location so that they can sign up for faster broadband.
Two companies that have benefitted through the scheme are Wookey Hole in Somerset and Dartmoor Zoo in Devon:
Wookey Hole: “Superfast broadband will open-up many possibilities for our prehistoric caves, including our new £4 million show cave. These speeds are a necessity for any business these days, so we were very enthusiastic to connect as quickly as possible. Installing superfast wireless underground also means that customers can instantly engage with their friends and family via social media about their experiences, increasing the awareness of our caves to a potentially worldwide audience in moments.”
Ben Mee of Dartmoor Zoo: “We were having to drive to Plymouth to be able to connect to the internet or even send emails, it made our frequent ‘We Bought a Zoo’ discussions with Hollywood frustrating, let alone trying to manage the day to day business of running a Zoo”
Heart of the South West Growth Hub
The Growth Hub is the LEP’s one-stop-shop for business support. Any business in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay can get in touch for free advice – see the advertisement in this section for details – and this month we’re showing a case study about how one business really benefitted from the advice they were given through the Growth Hub.
Look to Cook
A professional chef from Devon who helps businesses market their products through recipes and food photography is reaching a wider audience thanks to support from the Heart of the South West Growth Hub.
Lottie Francis, who founded Look to Cook, is now working for a number of businesses not just restricted to food-related sectors to develop recipes and food styling to help businesses create more engagement with their customers.
Clients include a major national retailer, a wipe-able tablecloth manufacturer and a clothing company that specialises in making clothes for children with eczema.
Lottie has been supported by Growth Hub Online Business Adviser, Laura Daniel.
Based in the Blackdown Hills, Lottie said: “I have been really impressed with the support I have received.
“Laura was quick to respond to my enquiry and she really understood my business and my objectives.
“One of the main areas of support has been introducing me to the Growth Support Programme where I have been able to find out about food and networking events in the region.
“Building contacts within the food industry is a key aim for me and this support has helped me widen my network.”
Laura was also able to signpost Lottie in the direction of social media and SEO training provided by the Get Up To Speed scheme. Lottie attended a free ‘Getting to Grips with SEO’ workshop as a result.
She said: “As I look to target a wider range of sectors across the country, it’s important to get my SEO and social media right. The training has given me a lot of actions that will really help me to promote the recipe development and food styling.”
The Growth Support Programme will also provide help to develop her marketing strategy.
Lottie added: “Getting direction and advice has been key to helping me develop my business. Laura and the team have been excellent in their support.”
The Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP is a strong and dynamic business-led partnership between the private sector, local authorities, universities and colleges. Our purpose is to lead and influence economic growth, job creation and prosperity across the Heart of the South West area covering Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay. More information and all the latest news can be found at the LEP’s website at: www.heartofswlep.co.uk where you can sign up for the newsletter and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.