Strong Leadership & a Voice For Business

Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
13th March 2024

Strong leadership is so very important to ensure that the voice of business is heard loud and clear by government and our MPs in Gloucestershire. Even more so as this is General Election year. Companies cannot be expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the messaging to government as they are at full stretch trying to survive and grow.

That’s why business leaders like Katherine Bennett CBE, the chair of Western Gateway-the new-pan regional partnership stretching from Swindon to Swansea-are vital for the growth of our regional economy here in the West. I talked to Katherine as she steps down from Western Gateway as its first chair in the role after two years. My view is that Western Gateway is now a very credible business supporting organisation. It is tackling some big ticket issues with the development of strategies on the rail network, hydrogen power and harnessing tidal power on the Severn Estuary, to name but a few.

Katherine, whose full time day job is CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, had a very distinguished 16 year career at Airbus. “I very much saw myself and other members of the Western Gateway board as ambassadors for the region”, she told me. “I feel it is very important for business people to step up and do that too, which is perhaps what has been lacking before. There are very strong voices in certain businesses but we also want to see other businesses to take their role as well”.

I totally agree. I may sound like a long playing record again when I say consistently that business must simply shout louder about the great innovation of their companies in this region. And our MPs must back them up far more.

“We need to turn up the volume another notch and ensure our voice is heard just as much as some of the other voices nationally”, says Katherine.

She is right. In General Election year, business must be shouting far more powerfully at the doors of government.

One vital way for businesses to turn up the volume is working through organisations like Business West, and the easiest way to get your voice out there is by being an active participant. We recently closed our Q1 Quarterly Economic Survey, and I’m sad to say that participation from businesses in Gloucestershire was lower than I had hoped. We all know that businesses need more support from central and regional government, but nothing will change unless we use our voices to advocate for ourselves. Keep an eye on your email inboxes in May, when the next quarter’s survey will be launching, to make sure that your voice is heard.

They need to feel they have support to invest and grow with confidence. Sadly, in my view, that support has for most businesses been sadly lacking.

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