Gloucestershire’s motto is ‘forever forwards’.
However, sometimes the county’s pace of change does not quite live up to these guiding aspirations.
In early September, Ian Mean, the Director of Business West in Gloucestershire, brought together a group of over thirty business leaders to discuss how to rise to the challenges facing the region.
The range and depth of experience present was striking, with contributions from food and drink, professional services, tech, cyber, logistics, building, waste management, environmental, energy and aerospace companies.
Business is often seen as only representing its narrow interests, but the experience of this roundtable was that business leaders care passionately about the place, and are champions and guardians of its long term interests, against short termism, complacency and inertia.
Gloucestershire is shortly to publish its industrial Strategy – led by the GFirst LEP. The current outline of the strategy is highly encouraging: with focus on several cutting edge sectors: notably cyber, based around the growing hub and world class expertise in Cheltenham, and agri tech, overseen by the able leadership of Jo Price at the Royal Agricultural University, and building on the major food and drink expertise of the county.
But it also acknowledges the steep challenges: of an ageing population struggling to retain and attract its young people, of skills gaps, transport obstacles and high housing costs. Many businesses also voiced concern at the lack of strategic vision or urgency, with one county and six district councils with a tendency to pull in different directions and with dispersed responsibilities for skills, housing, economic policy and transport infrastructure.
Gloucestershire has tremendous assets: a wonderful natural environment, fantastic towns and villages, its geographical location at a central point in the country, its people, its wealth and it quality of life.
In demonstrating the variety and resourcefulness of the private sector, we also highlighted its other great asset – business leadership as champions for the place.
Ian Mean and these business leaders will keep up their calls for Gloucestershire to up the pace, forever forwards.