Sajid Javid makes culture call to businesses at WLEP’s ‘World Class Worcestershire’ conference

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has called on businesses to hail Worcestershire’s cultural heritage as the way to drive up the county’s economy.

He was speaking to an audience of 350 businesspeople at Worcestershire LEP’s ‘World Class Worcestershire’ Conference yesterday (10 October 2014) at The Chateau Impney’s Regent Centre, Droitwich Spa.

As part of an internationally themed programme at WLEP’s fourth annual conference, he praised the county’s cultural assets saying “Worcestershire has so much to offer.”

He went on: “The city has a vibrant cultural scene that deserves to be shared with wider international audiences.”

He underlined how the strength of the region’s culture can boost business in Worcestershire saying “when culture does well, we all do well – it benefits business in all sorts of ways.”

Mr Javid’s sentiments were echoed by an eminent line-up of the region’s leading business figures representing the British Wheelchair Basketball Association, Worcestershire Repertory Company, West Midlands Safari Park, Destination Worcestershire and Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

Worcester Repertory Company’s associate director Ben Humphrey spoke of positioning the county as a ‘cultural hub’ and how supporting culture will bring economic value.

He said: “Investing in culture works for business – that’s a really encouraging call to arms for businesses to take away.”

Hosted by BBC Midlands Today presenter Mary Rhodes, the conference also featured contributions from Jaguar Land Rover, Joy Global, UKTI and specially commissioned videos from overseas business representatives who talked about the opportunities for Worcestershire to do business with China and Indonesia.

Partnership working and innovation were also highlighted as key drivers that will help establish Worcestershire as a world class destination for inward investment.

In her address, chief executive of Worcestershire County Council Clare Marchant explained how all partnerships were signed up to the 10-year Strategic Economic Plan.  “World Class Worcestershire is about the next ten years and what we can achieve by 2025.

“We need to realise our vision by delivering over the next five years.  We need to innovate and bring ideas forward all the time.  We all have a role in this.”

In his address, WLEP chairman Peter Pawsey said how Worcestershire is ‘really waking up to its potential’ citing a host of investment and job creation achievements over the last two years and opportunities in the immediate pipeline.

These include Amtek Global’s redevelopment of the Lawrence recycling plant as an aluminium casting smelter creating up to 600 jobs; a 290,000 sq ft European distribution centre for French firm Arc Tableware International; the £30m upgrade of Elgar Shopping Centre in Worcester; a new £150m retail park off Newtown Road, Worcester; upgrading Kidderminster town centre, and other retail and business park expansions across the county.

He also reported on progress in the jobs market in the last two years, with the number of employed persons in Worcestershire growing by 4.15 per cent to 283,300.

“This means we are well on track to exceed our target of 5 per cent growth by 2015,” added Mr Pawsey.

He sent a rallying call to businesspeople to believe in, invest in and grow in Worcestershire, saying “Tell your supply chains, your foreign partners and others about World Class Worcestershire as the place in which to live, work, play and invest in.”

Results of the event’s live interactive voting session sponsored by OGL Computer showed how the audience was ‘optimistic’ about Worcestershire’s future and growth plans

Other key sponsors of the conference included Hewett Recruitment, First Great Western, Growth Accelerator, Pertemps and Sanctuary Group.