First published in the Worcester News, 14 March 2014.
As you will know from our previous comments, Worcestershire LEP is determined to set out the county’s stall in the global marketplace. We want to attract inward investment to Worcestershire in order to create jobs and economic prosperity for us all.
One of the ways we do this is to highlight the county’s proximity to motorway infrastructure and connectivity to cities such as Bristol, Birmingham and Oxford. We also trumpet our closeness to Birmingham International Airport and ease of access to Heathrow and to a future HS2.
Although these are unquestionable benefits, I was asked recently whether they are really relevant in a global marketplace. For example, when you are dealing with companies who are based in huge countries such as the United States or China, a two, three or four hour drive to a major international airport or business centre is seen as immaterial. In that context, most of the counties and cities in England are only a hop, skip and a jump away from Heathrow – Europe’s busiest international airport.
The dilemma then, of course, is how do we differentiate Worcestershire? How do we persuade a major international business to invest in our county as opposed to anywhere else in UK, especially given the draw that many feel to London? This has recently been eloquently described by Evan Davis in his recent BBC 2 TV programme, ‘Mind the Gap: London vs the Rest’.
There are no easy answers for Worcestershire or, indeed, for any of England’s other 38 LEPs. It’s a competitive marketplace and we must continue to work hard to carve out Worcestershire’s niche.