Britain’s prosperity can be driven by the Midlands, keynote speaker Sir John Peace told the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s annual conference last week.
Sir John, chairman of the Midlands Engine, which brings together the 10 local enterprise partnerships in the Midlands, businesses and local authorities to drive economic growth, said the crucial role of the region in the national economy was “gaining huge traction” with Government.
“If the Midlands, succeeds Britain succeeds,” Sir John told the conference at Yarnfield Park, which was attended by more than 200 delegates from across the business community.
In the past, the region had performed less well than some parts of the country, with lower productivity and some skills in short supply, but the Midlands was now “on the rise” with a positive balance of trade with the USA and China. The Midlands had also benefitted from a total of 225 foreign direct investments in the region in the last 12 months, more than any other region outside London.
Working collaboratively, the Midlands had the opportunity to rebalance the UK economy and compete on the world stage. “Our aim is to make sure that what benefits one area of the Midlands benefits all,” Sir John added.
The Midlands Engine Vision for Growth included a “radical transformation” of transport connections, including not only roads, but also other transport links from airports to canals; investing in strategic infrastructure ranging from new homes to 5G connectivity; encouraging international trade and investment and “embracing the opportunities” of Brexit in wider international trade; promoting innovation and enterprise; and “promoting the Midlands as a great place to live, to visit, to work and to learn.”
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP chairman David Frost CBE told the conference the LEP’s mantra was “more jobs and better paid jobs”.
“Our ambition is to create a landscape and environment where higher value jobs are created,” he said. “We must create an area that people find attractive; we want prosperous towns with high quality housing and a dynamic environment.
“We need individuals and families with higher spending power, we need high quality skills and employers with a demand for skilled employees in a range of relevant and stretching jobs.
“We have to sell ourselves, and we should not underestimate the great strengths of our central location and transport links.”
David Frost’s full speech can be read here: SSLEP AGM David Frost speech
Other speakers included:
- LEP board member Sarah Montgomery, chair of Destination Staffordshire and managing director of the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas.
- Mark Bowen, commercial director of Queen’s Award for Enterprise-winning Cannock firm ATP Industries Group.
- Ian Middleton, UK chairman of automotive supplier Gestamp, which is investing in a new 550,000 sq ft facility in South Staffordshire.
- David Berks, strategic director of Penkridge-based construction recruitment specialists PSR Solutions, winners of the Business of the Year 2017 title in the Staffordshire Chambers awards.
- Josie Morris, managing director of innovative and award-winning eco-friendly packaging firm Woolcool, based in Stone.
There were also presentations from Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council and Cllr Abi Brown, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Pictured above are Cllr Abi Brown, Sir John Peace, David Frost, Cllr Philip Atkins and Mark Bowen