HotSW – one year on

The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is celebrating its first birthday this month and reflecting on a year of progress.

Formally established in the summer of 2011, the LEP was formed under the leadership of the private sector and supported by the local authorities from Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay and the area’s District Councils.

The LEP has an overall mission to lead and influence, supporting economic growth and job creation in the area. The Partnership has three key areas of focus – job creation, productivity and increasing earnings. Since its inception the LEP has worked hard to promote local business and secure inward investment.

Since June last year, a Board has been appointed along with Chair, Tim Jones, Vice Chair Frances Brennan and interim Chief Executive, Liz Waugh. Tim and Frances have just been re-elected for a second term of office. A partner Business Forum open to all businesses and business organisations across Devon and Somerset, was set up in the autumn to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the LEP, canvassing business opinion on LEP priorities and advising on related issues.

Tim Jones, Chairman for Heart of the South West said: “We have successfully completed our first 12 months, working well as a Board and reaffirmed our commitment to the coming year.  Our recently published Business Plan has helped us refine our priorities and help us focus on those issues of greatest importance that can help achieve jobs, growth and higher productivity.

“Our success is measured in part by creating a unique relationship with the business community and representing their needs at national level and with Government. This process has been enlightening and inspirational. Great credit must also go to the LEP Business Forum, which has been an essential part of maintaining vital local intelligence and underpinning important initiatives.

“During the last year, economic conditions have deteriorated to the point of being classified as the worst for 100 years.  Whitehall has responded with a series of initiatives and new policy directives, many of which have been channeled through the LEP Network.

“We have been given some financial muscle power through the Growing Places Fund but also have a scrutiny role over a wide range of other funding opportunities such as the Regional Growth Fund and Transport Budgets.

“We are now able to look forward to developing some major new initiatives through our emerging action plan.  If we are to improve the capacity of our businesses we need to give them all the help necessary., including access to skills, knowledge transfer as well as access to finance, improved connectivity, more resilient infrastructure. We also have some exciting programmes on developing the rural economy, helping women into businesses and business incubation developments.”

In January, the Partnership signed the trade agreement with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), making it the official government body responsible for coordinating foreign direct investment. HotSW works closely with UKTI to promote the area to potential overseas investors. The Partnership has created a strong foreign investment group, which is responsible for managing inward investment enquiries across the entire LEP footprint.

A £21.5 million Growing Places Fund was awarded to the Partnership in February to unlock stalled projects throughout the area. The Fund has been designed to distribute loans to capital projects and developments that have already secured planning permission and are ready to commence, but have been postponed for financial reasons.

In spring this year, the LEP held a series of Business Partnership planning events throughout the area. Designed to showcase the proposals for the partnership and gather feedback from attendees, the sessions were attended by over 400 business leaders, individuals and representatives. Following these events, the LEP published a full business plan outlining the strategic vision for the next five years.

The LEP was also successful in becoming one of five national pilots for the Rural Growth Network initiative, spearheading a national drive to encourage economic growth and enterprise in rural areas with an award of £2.9m.

For more information on HotSW and the initiatives it is working to support, please visit www.heartofswlep.co.uk

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information, contact Liz Waugh or Julie Everett at Coast Communications on 01752 847135.

Heart of the South West

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been formed under the leadership of the private sector supported by the local authorities from Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay and the area’s District Councils. It is one of 39 partnerships created since the Government’s Local Growth White Paper published in October 2010. More information about the work of the LEP is available from the website www.heartofswlep.co.uk.