Almost 200 people attended the annual conference of the Marches LEP to hear how the region is meeting the challenges of growing its economy.
The event heard from a panel of experts, including speakers from Jaguar Land Rover, West Mercia Police and BT, on issues such as skills, connectivity and cyber security.
The conference, held on April 27, also saw the launch of the Marches LEP’s Annual Report which gave an update on the economy of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin and details on the LEP’s multi-million transport infrastructure projects currently under way.
These include the South Wye Transport Package in Herefordshire which comprises a new road linking the Enterprise Zone and A49 with the A465 and a range of complementary sustainable transport projects in the South Wye area, and the £40.65m Hereford City Centre Transport Package which work has already started on and which will receive £16m of Growth Deal funding over the next four years.
Whilst in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin there are projects on the Oxon Link Road in Shrewsbury, the Telford Bus Centre relocation and the Eastern Gateway Project also in Telford.
Opening the conference, Chairman of the Marches LEP, Graham Wynn OBE, said: "Without the support and contributions of the business community across the region, we would be unable to do the role which government has entrusted to the LEP.
"Our vision to grow the economy of the Marches requires not only good infrastructure across road, rail and broadband, but also a skilled workforce so that we continue to attract news business that want to grow in the region."
Rita Davey, Skills Programme Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, spoke about the steps the automotive giant is taking to address skills challenges and with every manufacturing job at JLR supporting four roles in the wider supply chain.
Delegates heard how by 2020, Jaguar Land Rover will require an additional 12,000 people within engineering roles and how, as a consequence, JLR currently invests £100m in learning and development each year to support this drive.
DCI Sean Paley, of West Mercia Police, challenged the audience to consider just how safe their businesses’ IT infrastructures are and the extent to which they’re susceptible to potential online attacks which could impact growth, productivity and ultimately profitability.
Gill Hamer, Director of the Marches LEP, added: "With an ageing workforce and a business landscape made up of a high proportion of microbusinesses, there are a number of challenges here in the Marches which stem back to the need to increase our skilled workforce.
"However, we should also celebrate that we boast the eighth highest level of business start-ups of any LEP region and the second highest survival rate – points which both support the attractiveness of the Marches as a place in which to do business."
The Annual Report of the Marches LEP can be downloaded from: http://www.marcheslep.org.uk/marches-lep-annual-report-launched