Business Secretary Vince Cable has praised Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), hailing their “pro-business and pro-growth attitude”.
His comments came on a visit to the area today (3 April) where he heard from LEP members of the progress being made including kick-starting various development schemes with money won under the Growing Places Fund.
They were “clearly heading in the right direction”, he declared afterwards.
At a meeting at Malvern Hills Science Park Mr Cable was told that the Worcestershire LEP was both “light on its feet” and was “a can-do county working together”.
And LEP chairman Peter Pawsey urged the Minister to consider Worcestershire “an ideal area for the Government to pilot schemes”.
He went on: “Some of us used to feel that Worcestershire was something of a hidden county. We are very much about changing that.
“The challenge of the Worcestershire LEP is for us to step up to the plate and we are focussed on turning our natural assets into real opportunities, with major benefits in terms of jobs and economic success. We are determined to sell Worcestershire with its great access, location, environment, history, heritage, schooling, health and sporting successes – to sell all that to the world as the place in the UK to do business.
“Worcestershire has massive assets and advantages as a place to live, to work and to play and we intend to use these assets to full effect in very significantly encouraging growth in jobs, homes and therefore the economy of the area – we are truly open for business.”
Among the successes so far are £17.85 million from the Regional Growth Fund to bring forward Worcester Technology Park, which could eventually create 3,000 jobs, and Growing Places funding of four projects – Hoo Brook Link Road, Kidderminster, a first phase access route for a planned new enterprise park; pump-priming for the proposed University Park, Worcester, and its plans for enterprise, science and wellbeing campuses; help towards Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s redevelopment plans; and Springhill Farms, near Pershore, for a new traffic island to enable construction of a £5 million anaerobic digestion plant.
But the LEP missed out on winning one of the new enterprise zones and Mr Cable could give no assurances of a second chance.
Mr Cable acknowledged that a number of good enterprise zone proposals had “failed to make the cut.”
He went on: “I cannot promise you there will be a new round – we would want those given the go-ahead to bed in first. So that is on one side for the time-being, albeit if they prove a great success maybe we will want more.”
Mr Cable, an advocate of a more interventionist approach, confirmed discussion was taking place within the Government about whether more money and guidance would help LEPs go forward, a possibility which produced murmurings of support around the table.
He offered encouragement for the LEP to foster cyber industries in its area and fielded concerns over skills and training, access to finance, transport and tourism.
Mr Cable also saw round family-run car-making business, Morgan, Goodrich ISR, the imaging software group, and machine tool company Yamazaki Mazak.
“Manufacturing makes a significant contribution to the UK economy. It generates half our exports and is responsible for much of our business research and development activity,” he noted.
“In the UK we have a wealth of expertise and many innovative businesses that are central to the Government’s growth strategy.”