Seminar maps out a new business route

Wednesday, 23rd May 2012

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Friday’s event was organised by Enterprise Wiltshire, a new body aimed at stimulating business in the county and inspired by the creation of the Wiltshire and Swindon Enterprise Partnership.

Swindon Borough Council leader Rod Bluh is among the board members of the LEP but it was his counterpart from Wiltshire Council, Jane Scott, who welcomed the delegates.

She listed Wiltshire Council’s key targets for helping businesses, including a £16m investment, backed by a government grant, to introduce superfast broadband across the county.

“We will begin with key areas and we are in the process of beginning this at the end of the year,” she said.

She said the military presence in the county is increasing as the services retrench elsewhere in the country and the majority of servicemen and women want to stay in the county when they leave the military. This brings more skilled people into the labour market.

LEP chairman Paul Johnson, former chief executive of rail brake firm Knorr-Bremse in Melksham, highlighted the challenge the LEP faces in achieving government targets of creating 10,000 jobs by 2015 and retaining a further 8,000. He compared the amount of motorway per 100 square miles in the county compared to its neighbours.

Wiltshire has 6.3 while Oxfordshire has 10.2, Gloucester-shire 9.1 and Solent 16.8. The UK average per county is 11.9.

It is this kind of infrastructure challenge, he said, that the LEP has to tackle in attracting firms to the area. The LEP will be able to attract government funding for infrastructure projects, if the case is well presented.

“Wiltshire now has a pot of £9.3m from the Growing Places Fund. We have to decide on a shortlist of schemes to put forward by May 31,” he said.

Mr Johnson is concerned too many young people have unrealisitic salary expectations.

“Young people need to understand,” he said, “that if they don’t get the skills they need the type of employment they get will not attract the kind of salary they might expect.”

Wiltshire councillor Alan Greedy told the seminar the county will hear next month whether funding for a trans-county rail line, which will create regular services between Swindon and Trowbridge, is to receive government funding.

South West MEP Julie Girling also spoke at the seminar, as did Mark Prisk, Minister for Business and Enterprise, via a recorded message.

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