Time was when the Forest of Dean seemed like a forgotten island, stuck on the edge of Gloucestershire and only a few miles from the Welsh border.
I am happy to say that my view has changed dramatically after talking to key businesses and council people in the Forest over the last few months and addressing the Forest Economic Partnership (FEP) stakeholders last week.
Councillors have come together and really are presenting a strong message that the Forest is open for business.
The Forest Economic Partnership has now been going for nine months, and has produced a set of excellent plans that bode well for the economic growth of the area.
I am impressed that there is now a driving leadership for the FEP - with plans to match - in the person of Andrew Callard who is a good marketing man.
Those plans to develop growth seem realistic.
And I would go as far as to say that I have never seen a better set of plans to deliver such realistic economic growth for a rural community.
But I also have to say that if they are going to have a lasting effect, the Forest has got to set about shouting about itself and the great businesses there.
Marketing plans on paper are all well and good but they must be designed to help the businesses in the Forest to grow.
In that rerspect, I think that the LEP’s new Growth Hub now being developed at the Vantage Point business park and opening next Spring, will be a big help.
And with the lifting of the tolls on the Se vern Bridge, there will also be a national spotlight on the Forest as a lifestyle and business destination.
It is good to see the Forest councillors now working closely with Monmouthshire to get the best possible benefit from the dropping of the tolls.
And I think it was appropriate that this important meeting of the FEP was held at the new Gloucestershire College campus at Cinderford.
In itself, the new college sends a big message that the Forest is very much open for business.
It was only able to open after a huge amount of last minute lobbying to plug the cash gap by the Forest’s MP, Mark Harper and GFirstLEP.
Principal Matt Burgess and his team have an important role in giving confidence to those young people of the Forest who, in my view, have for so long have been short changed in their development.
Yes, the Forest is now very much open for business.