We had a stimulating and encouraging Business & Economy Meeting this week looking at what the Western Gateway means for the Forest of Dean with nearly 50 attendees.
The Western Gateway, launched in November 2019, aims to increase economic co-operation between South Wales and South West England. The UK government is hoping for collaboration between eight cities, including Newport, Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Swindon. The project plans to boost local economies and drive growth throughout the region drawing on the diverse talents on both sides of the Severn.
The event was chaired by Ian Mean, Gloucestershire director, Business West and the panel included Katherine Bennett, CBE, Chair, Western Gateway, Tim Gwilliam, Leader of Forest of Dean District Council, Neill Ricketts, Chair of the Forest Economic Partnership(FEP) & Chief Executive of Versarien, Andrew Callard, Managing Director of Rural Technologies Ltd & Chair of an FEP sub-group and Mark Owen, Owner & Editor of Punchline.
According to Tim Gwilliam, “The Forest of Dean is the gateway between two nations and a number of counties. I think it should be at the very epicentre of the Western Gateway.”
“For far, far too long we’ve seen the forest ignored. The time it right to start promoting it and shouting about it. It’s a great place to live with fantastic communities and some brilliant businesses there,” said Ian Mean.
The Forest of Dean is a superb area to live and to work. But there are issues around transport and connectivity that need to be addressed. Many young people are leaving the area and this needs to change. During coronavirus, more and more people are working from home and the infrastructure needs to be developed to provide high speed connectivity and better transport links. There is a wealth of hidden gems of businesses dotted around the area and we need to champion the companies in the Forest and work with businesses large and small and encourage them to invest in this area.
“Business listens to other business about where a good place is to invest. Pollical leaders have a role to play there too but I think it’s when business leaders say come here the skills are great, the opportunities are great, and we can do more together. That is my key focus,” said Katherine Bennett.
There is hope and opportunity and a drive to make change happen for the Forest of Dean and the Forest can and should be a key part of the Gateway.
The event concluded with Tim Gwilliam, known as the ‘bard of the forest’ giving us a poem:
“With Katherine and with Andrew, with Mark and with Ricketts, on Ian’s web thing they were just the ticket, The Great Western Gateway was the tale of which we talked and I’m telling you now they talked the walk they can walk, A chance for the Forest to make a large shout, and helping a region and a whole country out, Yes, we need to be central, the bullseye of the board, If we get this thing done, instead of Mr Ricketts it might be Lord”
Watch the event recording:
Our next event 'What price net zero for business?' is taking place on Wednesday 23rd June from 10.00-11.30.