GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) brought together together more than 300 of the county’s business leaders this morning at its fourth Annual Review - its biggest event yet.
Focusing the spotlight on the £77.5million brought into the county through the Gloucestershire Growth Deal, Dr Diane Savory OBE DL, Chair, and David Owen, chief executive, took attendees on a journey of the last 12 months’ outstanding achievements brought together by the LEP, alongside its public, private and voluntary sector partners.
Dr Savory said: “Gloucestershire is the most successful LEP in the country – the only LEP to receive everything it asked for – and more – from Government.
“I’m hugely proud of the work and the success that the LEP and the public, private and voluntary sectors have achieved to secure over £77million, as a result of our ambitious business plan for the county.
However, we must not be complacent – the journey isn’t over and we must aspire to even greater economic growth in Gloucestershire.
“The support of the business community over the past 12 months has been overwhelming. I’d like to thank the business people of Gloucestershire for their time and inspiration – each and every minute is enormously appreciated.”
Mr Owen added: “The recent General Election result means that LEPs are now firmly entrenched in the growth infrastructure of England and there will be opportunities from Government for Gloucestershire to compete for further investment.
“To meet that challenge, we need the ongoing support of local businesses, ensuring we secure the future investment needed to grow, and enabling our businesses to be successful on a global stage.”
Attendees were walked through the six districts of Gloucestershire, with updates for each on the difference that the £77.5million Growth Deal will make to all corners of the county.
Dr Savory and Mr Owen also spoke to key business people in the audience, including Kevin Hamblin, principal of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, to discuss the evolution of the GREEN project; Neill Ricketts, chief executive of Versarien, on the impact Growth Deal funding will have in the Forest of Dean; Kevan Blackadder on the retail aims for Cheltenham; Chris Gaskell, from the Royal Agricultural University, regarding the exciting plans for the Agri-Tech Innovation Centre; Darren Lewington, from Gloucestershire Airport, to discuss development of new hangar facilities; Laura Crabb, from the University of Gloucestershire, on the first six months of The Growth Hub; Mark Gale on the impact Gloucester Services has had on the local community; Jon Whitbread on the transport hub for Gloucester and Rob Loveday, from GE Aviation, who recently joined the LEP Board to represent large employer organisations in Gloucestershire.
They also spoke with people whose businesses have felt the benefit of LEP activities, including Lee Summers from Elmrep, whose business worked with the Employment Team to secure work placements, and Polly Barnfield, who was one of the early users to receive the support of The Growth Hub services for her business, Maybe.
The Annual Review took place at the newly opened Gloucester Services Southbound – a project supported by GFirst LEP to the tune of £3million with a loan from their infrastructure fund.
Those present also heard more about the Growth Deal, including the services of the recently opened Growth Hub, soon to be available countywide through Growth Hub spokes, the GREEN project at former Berkeley power station, Growth Zone development on the M5 corridor and delivery of key transport projects across the county.
Across the county – what is the £77.5m being used for?
l £5million spent on upgrading transport connections through the A40 around GCHQ – improving the speed of travel on this important entry to the town – and further investment at Cheltenham Spa Railway Station to provide a gateway to the town fit for the 21st Century.
l £400,000 investment to support retail entrepreneurship – the first time Government have invested in the sector in this way. GFirst LEP was appointed the Retail Pathfinder for Government in 2012, leading the way among the 39 LEPs on the evolving retail sector, to support the next generation of retail entrepreneurs.
l £3million secured for a Rural and Agri-Tech Innovation Centre at the Royal Agricultural University will provide a starting platform for many new and existing businesses.
l £550,000 for Gloucestershire Airport to develop new hangar facilities, dealing with the existing strong demand for space and the central Government’s drive for growth in regional airports.
l Over £4million for the development of the A419 Stonehouse corridor from junction 13 of the M5 – such an important area for advanced engineering and other sectors.
l An additional £3million for the Gloucestershire Renewable Energy, Engineering, and Nuclear skills centre, on top of the initial £5million investment, to upgrade the transport infrastructure around the Berkeley site.
l £7million will build world-class centres in Cyber Security Training and Advanced Renewable Energy.
l £1million spent on delivery of a transport strategy for Lydney.
l £4million to develop crucial road infrastructure for the Cinderford Northern Quarter.
l Funding for Elmbridge Park and Ride, improvements at Over on the A40, upgrades to the St Barnabas roundabout and improvements on the B4063 at the Staverton Bridge junction, totalling nearly £19million.
l Regeneration of the Kings Quarter in Gloucester.
l An investment of nearly £5million in a new transport hub for Gloucester.
Helping people into employment and bringing businesses and schools closer together
l More than 1,500 people who are unemployed, facing redundancy or looking for a career change have been supported.
l Created or improved more than 1,000 CVs.
l Over half of the long-term unemployed people supported through the Work Programme gained employment in 14/15, making Gloucestershire one of the best performers in the country.
l More than 4,700 students have gone through work-related learning programmes.
l 26 Secondary Schools engaged.
l Five Special Educational Needs Schools engaged.
l More than 240 Business Mentors volunteered their time.
l 160 businesses have taken part in a programme.
GFIRST LEP was able to launch the first of the Growth Hub facilities last October, working in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire.
Providing quality advice and support to existing businesses and potential business leaders, The Growth Hub gives access to the people and services to help transform businesses.
During the first six months of operation, The Growth Hub has seen more than 3,400 businesses through the door, with the team providing more than 1,700 cases of support for businesses, including help on strategy, innovation, finance, marketing and operations.
The Growth Hub’s Business Guides are currently working with more than 120 local businesses that have high growth aspirations, to offer them accelerated support.
Growth Deal provides the LEP with three important and additional funding strands for The Growth Hub:
l £2million investment in further education colleges that will upgrade and improve facilities to deliver science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
l £5million to expand and upgrade Growth Hub facilities – ensuring Gloucestershire has the best possible services for businesses of anywhere in the UK.
l £5million to be invested in ensuring that The Growth Hub concept is available right across Gloucestershire, to all businesses, wherever they are based.
For full details of the Annual Review and the Growth Deal, visit www.gfirstlep.com