Five priority areas to boost the West of England’s economy in 2012 have been highlighted by Business West, the area’s lobbying and advice group.
It has pledged to lobby hard for businesses in the area – with its priorities being promoting exports, boosting transport, tackling youth unemployment, reaping the benefits of local procurement opportunities, and supporting the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Business West, which also runs the area’s chambers of commerce, says many of its members are positive about the new year despite the tough challenges of 2011 and the many negative economic forecasts.
Business West managing director Phil Smith said: “Welcoming in a new year is always a time for great optimism where we put behind us the trials and tribulations of the past year and move forward in a more positive state of mind.
“For business this is a real challenge after the year we have just had which truly did provide us with a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
“In 2011 the business community had a tough time, with economic recession, high unemployment, high inflation, national strike action and falling sales. And all this against a backdrop of a government talking of putting private sector jobs growth at the top of its agenda and protesting how critical business is to our local and national economy.
“It has been undoubtedly tough and in some quarters there is still a perceptible fear that the financial crisis is entering a new stage with concerns that economic growth will continue to prove elusive in 2012.
“But blanket negativity will get us nowhere, particularly as many of our Business West members tell us they are quietly confident about continuing success. Business must continue to stand up for itself and reinforce its central role in both wealth creation and job creation. Business West will certainly carry on lobbying hard for business.”
Priorities in 2012 will include:
- Promoting export opportunities and helping local businesses make the most of what’s on offer
- Ensuring local transport schemes actually happen and get through the planning process – critical now funding has been secured
- Working with business to provide employment opportunities for young people by supporting national schemes and new innovative local projects
- Ensuring West businesses see the benefits of local procurement opportunities through major national projects such as the Nuclear Power programme (Oldbury and Hinkley)
- Supporting and challenging the LEP to deliver on removing business barriers to growth
Mr Smith added: “Each year we draw up a list of priorities based on members’ views and concerns. In 2011 we saw some excellent progress on some of these.”
Successes this year included:
- More than £150m of Government funding secured for major local transport schemes across the West of England
- Government approval and support for the electrification of the Great Western mainline between Bristol and London
- Important amendments to the Localism Act to include business neighbourhoods and business engagement
- Improving relations between the banking community and local businesses
“Gearing up for a positive year, Business West is positioning our local chambers as a local access point for business support and services,” added Mr Smith. Business West supplies Chamber of Commerce services to nearly 2,000 members across Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and Gloucestershire.
“With the demise of local Business Links we will be providing business solutions at a time when businesses need all the help they can get. 2012 needs to be the year for business where we all recognise that ‘business is good for Britain’ and work together to promote and support business growth.”
PUBLICATIONS: Bristol 24/7, 3rd January 2012