I hope that you are enjoying the summer weather. It is time for an Economic Development newsletter, and the events of the past week with the visit of Donald Trump and the publication of Theresa May’s white paper on Brexit mean it is certainly timely to explain some of the things we are doing to support the local economy.
As you know, our objectives are described under four headings: Skills and Employment, Attracting Investment, Growing Businesses, and LEP/Funding.
Skills and Employment
Helping people to gain employment and helping people to have the skills that employers need continues to be a significant priority to us. The issue is important both to my portfolio and to that of my colleague, Councillor Patricia Bradwell OBE. Working with our partners in the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership we are responsible for designing how £13m of government funding for skills is spent. Often this work is delivered by local colleges and by other training providers so it is perhaps not always known that we are behind it, but I can confirm that we have commissioned major schemes to provide careers information through the www.theworldofwork.co.uk website; we help unemployed people to gain the skills that they need in employment; and we help employers to train their staff in the direct skills that they need.
Our Skills Support to the Workforce programme has helped 200 employees in each of Boston, South Holland, and South Kesteven; 300 employees in North Kesteven; 500 employees in West Lindsey; and 700 employees in each of East Lindsey and Lincoln. It is a great programme which gives businesses access to the skills that they need. I would be particularly interested to hear from councillor colleagues in Boston, South Holland, and South Kesteven about how you can work with us on raising the number of trainees up to the level in other areas.
We are also one of just four areas in the country who are running a pilot, funded by the Department for Employment, which is concerned with helping operational staff within sectors like tourism and food production to receive training to become supervisors and technical staff. Across all sectors jobs are changing, and more people will take on supervisory or technical roles so this pilot is particularly useful, and it is good that the Department for Education recognise Lincolnshire as a place to test out new initiatives. Look out for a series of public events that will be held over the summer.
I have explained before about Team Lincolnshire and about the group of private sector intermediaries who are part of the team, championing Lincolnshire as a place to invest. This week we will be holding an informal Team Lincolnshire event, which will give businesses the opportunity to meet the key council officials that they need to know in order to make projects happen. We expect around 50 attendees.
We have also published a calendar of Team Lincolnshire events for the next two years. We will continue to fly the flag for Lincolnshire at the international and national MIPIM property events and with a business lunch at the Belton Horse Trials, but we will also be holding ‘Lincolnshire in Leeds’ and ‘Lincolnshire in Birmingham’ events because these are cities where the next wave of potential investors in Lincolnshire are based. As well as these major events, we will also be holding ‘pop up’ meetings in every district in the county. These meetings, which are partnerships between Team Lincolnshire and district councils, will be informal sessions where the various investment opportunities in each district are showcased to developers.
Whilst on the subject of investment it would be remiss of me not to mention the North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point. As I write the builders are finishing their work, the exhibition is being installed, and the café’s preparations are in full swing. The North Sea Observatory is a fabulous addition to our coast, high quality design and materials have been used and they show our ambition to extend the tourism season to full effect. I would encourage every member to visit it, have something to eat at the excellent café, and enjoy the sea view.
We took a conscious decision to focus our own tourism promotional work on PR –ie working with journalists to put stories and information about Lincolnshire in the travel press. The PR work continues to be successful, and we have had notable coverage of Lincolnshire’s Mayflower heritage in the American travel media. The coverage is particularly welcome because it tells potential visitors about all four corners of Lincolnshire and it encourages them to visit many of our county’s excellent attractions.
The Lincolnshire growth hub continues to provide advice and support to businesses of all sizes in the county; it will have supported 650 businesses over the past twelve months. The growth hub arranges conferences and training events on subjects that are particularly important to business. For example, many businesses have told us that they need assistance in combatting the risk of cyber-crime. Therefore we organised an event, attended by 80 businesses, in partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones. We have recently submitted a funding bid to extend the growth hub’s work for another two years – assisting a further 1000+ businesses.
We have been contacted by several businesses – spanning manufacturing, food production, and technology- who are looking for high quality employment sites in the county. Each of these potential investments is worth in the region of £15m, and we are working closely with those businesses to identify the right site and to tell them why it is right for them to invest in Lincolnshire. Ultimately each investment will be a business decision for that company, but we will be making sure that the Lincolnshire proposition is as strong as possible.
The Environment and Economy scrutiny committee recently visited the Technology Hub at Mortons of Horncastle. The scrutiny committee saw 3D printers and motion capture videos in action. The hubs – there is also one in Lincoln and one in Boston – provide small businesses with the opportunity to test new products and processes on a small scale, essentially de-risking the prototyping. The technology hubs, which were created as a result of our investment, have been very useful in growing a number of businesses from across the county. For example, a medium sized Lincolnshire trampoline manufacturer is using the slow-motion camera to test the elasticity of different materials in order for it to create a competitively priced product.
Our relationship with Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership remains strong. The government has rated all of the LEPs in the country, and Greater Lincolnshire LEP was highly rated.
LCC and the LEP are working together to make the business case for greater investment in utilities in the county. We recently held a successful event with developers, utility companies, utility regulators, and councils. As a result of this initiative we have been approached by a potential investor in the low carbon economy and we are now showing them sites across the county that they could invest in.
The government is currently designing a new funding pot to replace EU funding. It will be called the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and I was very pleased to co-sign a letter which set out what we in Lincolnshire would like to see from the Shared Prosperity Fund. My co-signatory, Councillor Tony Bridges, who as well as being vice chairman of the council is also chairman of the Brexit working group, ensured that both the Environment and Economy scrutiny committee and the Brexit working group have had the chance to shape our intended outcomes. LCC officers recently led a workshop on the fund, and as a result of that workshop we will be inviting the senior civil servants whose role is to design the new fund to meet us here in Lincolnshire.
Finally, those of us who represent coastal areas will be aware of the benefit of the Coastal Communities Fund. The fund has enabled us to invest in Gibraltar Point visitor centre and in a programme for retailers and restaurants along the coast. The Coastal Communities Fund comes to an end shortly, and I will be adding my voice to that of other coastal politicians in calling for the fund to be extended permanently.
I hope that you find this newsletter useful. As ever, if you would like to discuss any item in the newsletter please do not hesitate to contact me, my support councillor Mark Storer, or any member of the Economic Development staff team.
Cllr Colin Davie
Executive Councillor for Economy and Place
01522 552096 / 07770 871 875