Update from Cllr Colin Davie – Executive Councillor for Economic Development,Tourism, Environment, Planning
Spring has now arrived and so it is time for me to update you on some of the most important activities that have taken place recently in Economic Development.
As you know, my philosophy for economic development is that it is businesses that create jobs and it is the role of the public sector to facilitate businesses’ ambitions. The only way that we can achieve that facilitation role is through developing and nurturing relationships with businesses in Lincolnshire. This is something that we have concentrated on in the past few months and that we will continue to concentrate on in the future.
Team Lincolnshire –investment opportunities
I have explained before about ‘Team Lincolnshire’ –a group of commercial developers and businesses who are working to promote Lincolnshire and the development opportunities that are associated with the county’s economic growth. The Economic Development investment team facilitates the Team Lincolnshire approach. Team Lincolnshire was very well represented at the recent MIPIM business investment fair. MIPIM is where all of the major European property investors meet. I spoke at Team Lincolnshire’s event to showcase the county and there were 70 attendees –that’s 65 more than attended a similar event that was held by one of our neighbouring counties, And it shows that developers are genuinely interested in investing in the county!
Later this week Team Lincolnshire will hold its business networking event at the Belton Horse Trials. More than 100 businesses and intermediaries will attend the event. I know that some members of Team Lincolnshire are hosting investors that they met at MIPIM at the networking event and I understand that some important deals are moving ahead.
Partnership working to promote investment –UK Trade and Industry
UK Trade and Industry is the government’s arm that supports exporting and investment. They play an important role in an area’s economic development, and there is always a risk that if local areas do not connect up strongly with UKTI then their own work, and that of UKTI, will be diluted. At a time of reducing public sector budgets, diluted effort is of benefit to nobody. Therefore I continue to work closely with UKTI’s leadership team. The Deputy Director of UKTI will be speaking at this week’s Team Lincolnshire business networking event and I regularly meet other members of the UKTI team.
Additionally, last week I agreed that UKTI and LCC will establish a combined approach to working with the 80 foreign owned businesses in Lincolnshire. Foreign owned businesses traditionally make around two thirds of all investments in the UK economy, so it is important that we work effectively with them. Our officers will write out to these businesses and will offer to visit them in the coming weeks to help to facilitate their development plans.
A recent report showed that there has been a reduction in the number of Lincolnshire businesses that trade internationally over the past decade. This has been due to international economic conditions, and we are working hard to increase the number of exporters. Clearly, establishing contacts with other areas is a primary way of doing this. Giving Lincolnshire businesses and organisations the opportunity to meet helpful contacts from an area, and then giving them the opportunity to meet businesses directly, are two good ways of increasing export. That is why I have developed relationships with Hunan (China) and increasingly with Pinellas (USA). The vice governor of Hunan led a delegation to Lincolnshire just before March. Vice governor is a very senior post in China, and members of his delegation included business directors and top ranking civil servants. The delegation visited Dynex Semiconductors, which is three quarters owned by a major Hunan business, and a number of other Lincolnshire organisations including the board of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
I have now received a letter of thanks from the vice-governor and a request to pursue links between Lincolnshire’s educational institutes and their counterparts in Hunan. There is government funding available for joint schemes, and so we will be pursuing this opportunity actively.
I expect to welcome a similar delegation from Pinellas -focused rather more on the defence engineering, health, and flood management sectors- later in the year.
At a more operational level, because of our links to UKTI we recently hosted an exporting day. The day included a drop-in session and various seminars. It was focused primarily on small businesses, and each of the seminars was well attended with around 24 small businesses directly benefitting.
Creating opportunities for businesses to trade –supply chain development
It is well known that the supply chains of major businesses provide an excellent opportunity for smaller businesses to win contracts. Lincolnshire boasts some excellent component manufacturers, along with some very skillful knowledge based businesses.
We have focused our work with the manufacturing sector onto supply chain improvements. In March we held a manufacturing conference in partnership with Nat West. Over 130 businesses attended, and heard how to win contracts in the HS2 and Jaguar Land Rover supply chains. I often judge an event by how much discussion there is between delegates during the coffee break; it shows that businesses are exchanging notes and exploring opportunities to trade together. At our manufacturing conference it was hard to get the delegates back into the room because they were networking so effectively.
Information about supply chain opportunities, along with plenty of other advice for businesses, is held on our website www.businesslincolnshire.com and I would encourage all members to promote this website to businesses in your electoral divisions.
Conoco Phillips recently announced that they are reviewing the future of their operation at Theddlethorpe. Whilst any change to the centre could have devastating effects on the local community it should be recognized that Conoco Phillips’s review will be done in the context of national energy conditions. Because of that, I have written to Amber Rudd, secretary of state at the Department for Energy and Climate Change asking for her assistance in this matter. I will also be meeting the UK President of Conoco Phillips soon; I wrote to him explaining about how important an employer Conoco Phillips is to Lincolnshire and he has agreed to meet me.
Turning to tourism, we have had a long-term aim of broadening the coastal tourism season. The North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point is one of the ways that we will achieve this, and I am delighted to say that the construction phase is now underway and the piling is being installed –by a Lincolnshire based construction business.
I am also delighted that the new Gibraltar Point visitor centre, which we have re-developed in partnership with Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, is nearing opening. The centre was devastated by the floods of December 2014, and the new facility looks very impressive. It will be a real jewel in our coastal tourism offer and I would urge all members to visit the new centre when it is operational.
Clearly the risk of coastal flooding affects investment decisions. The Environment Agency give some clear advice to planning authorities about what can and can’t be done. In some parts of the country, the relationship with the Environment Agency is inflexible. However, I have invested a lot of time in working with the Environment Agency here in Lincolnshire. A result of that relationship, the Environment Agency have agreed to join a workshop with major coastal developers to explore how coastal protection schemes can be designed to protect the area and to promote investment at the same time. I hope that joint working of this nature can be a feature of our future relationship with the Environment Agency.
Looking ahead –skills, devolution, and Midlands Engine
For some time now we have discussed the need to tackle Lincolnshire’s skills gap. Developing a flexible approach to apprenticeships, providing a fund for employers to design training which directly meets their business need, and increasing the relationship between schools and employers have all been mentioned. The economic development team has been working closely with the Skills Funding Agency to design activity that meets these objectives, and we hope that training providers will be able to bid to deliver this work in the next couple of months and that training for an extra 4,500 Lincolnshire people will be starting in September.
The devolution agreement for greater Lincolnshire has a clear focus on economic growth. It should provide flexibilities and funding for growth schemes, and it has a strong focus on adapting government business support schemes to directly meet our local sectors’ needs. I look forward to working with my colleague Councillor Martin Hill and others in moving towards effective delivery of the devolution agreement.
Members will have seen that government is promoting Midlands Engine, an initiative to raise the productivity of the whole of the Midlands (‘From the Wash to Wales’). It is very important that Lincolnshire is seen as an important part of the Midlands Engine –our food production sector is critical to the region’s economy, our advanced engineering contributes directly, and our educational institutions provide skills to grow the economy. In order to really make our mark on Midlands Engine, Greater Lincolnshire LEP has organized a major business seminar on the event for 4 May which will be addressed by the Midlands Engine director. 30 businesses have already confirmed their attendance and we expect that roughly 100 will have signed up by the time of the event itself.
I hope that you have found this economic development newsletter useful. As you will have read, there is a substantial amount of work in progress. Some of it is providing direct opportunities for our businesses and communities, whilst other activity is by its very nature more focused on the long-term. You all have businesses in your electoral divisions, and if you would like me to come and meet any of those businesses and explain about these opportunities then diary-permitting I would be delighted to do so.
If you would like any further information about this or any other aspect of economic development please do not hesitate to contact me, my executive support councillor Stuart Tweedale, or Justin Brown in the economic development team.