Economic strategy records much success one year on
There has been some good success in local economy growth over the last year but there remains much work to be accomplished in this complex arena in the long-term and requires multiple players to achieve the ultimate goal.
That was the overarching assessment by the Council on the first year's performance of the Wakefield Economic Strategy 2018-2023 which was developed alongside public and private sector partners and implemented in June 2018.
A year on, Tom Stannard, Corporate Director for Economic Growth and Regeneration, told the opening of the 6th annual Wakefield Business Week that there has been some good success in its three thematic areas of Successful Business, Successful People and Successful Places.
That included the creation of hundreds of new jobs and helping hundreds more to find jobs or train for other roles, building of thousands of homes and recording millions of pounds in investment.
Over the next year, there will be a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) such as how to remodel business support for them and work with them to increase productivity. More work will be undertaken to support at-risk groups of workers to develop skills that lead to better employment opportunities.
Another major focus will be delivering a higher skilled workforce through retraining low paid workers who are most in need of skills and training, widening access to high-level apprenticeships and delivering individual support to help residents achieve their career goals and aspirations.
Sustainable communities and high-quality housing growth are also being targeted in the coming year.
Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: "We have achieved much in a short space of time thanks to the cooperation of public and private sector partners working in concert but there is still much work to be done and together we need to build on this success. Despite the turbulent economic times facing the national economy due to Brexit uncertainties, the public and private sectors in Wakefield have demonstrated that by working in harmony we can rise above those challenges and grow the local economy. At the Council we are actively working to secure funding for a research and development centre and together with partners to create the right conditions for SME innovation and growth. We are also aiming to improve the skill level of our people so as to improve their personal standards of living and attract high end companies to Wakefield so as to improve the local economy."
Speaking at the opening of the week, Chief Executive Merran McRae told business leaders it has been a challenging year especially with the high street coming under pressure just like many others but the Council is doing its best to stay on top of the situation.
"We are all working hard to ensure that as old doors are shut new ones are opened. I don't know exactly what the future holds but I do know that this district continues to secure investment from both domestic and non-domestic businesses, £253m in the last financial year, and new jobs are being created. But as ever, more needs to be done and I'm confident that this district, its business, its residents and its partners collectively can continue to make a real difference and improve the standard of living."
In the first year, the successes included:
- 1,140 new jobs, resulting from capital grants and inward investment
- 2,100 new homes delivered across the district of which nearly 350 were affordable homes
- More than 6,000 properties accredited to the Wakefield Responsible Landlord Scheme
- More than £350million of inward investment secured
- Works Better helped 400 residents, furthest from the job market, to ultimately move them into employment or training
- £1.8million of capital grants provided to Wakefield businesses, leveraging £17million of private sector investment and creating more than 790 jobs
- £1.1million of grants approved for the third sector and community groups to be utilised in the most deprived areas of Wakefield
- More than £750,000 of funding received to secure apprenticeship opportunities for more than 300 Wakefield residents
Wakefield Business Week is a five-day event, free of charge for businesses. It features high quality business events designed to showcase cutting edge developments and available support to help local business grow and develop.
The topics for the learning and development sessions include how to embed innovation as a culture in business, how to build a 'future-proof' workforce and developing more gender-balanced tech start-ups.
For companies currently exporting or wanting to export, a special session has been laid on Exporting Made Simple. Bosses will have the chance to meet experts who will reveal exporting opportunities and demystify common misconceptions and mistakes.
There will also be insights into the latest developments of digital technologies while another session will delve into how to maximize return on investment through media advertising.
Two of the district's newest and most renowned industry stars will be guest speakers on business growth. Raskik Parmar from IBM and Oliver Winstanley from Relations Torque will reveal how their businesses grew and how the operations were transformed.
The winners of Wakefield Manufacturing Awards 2019 will be announced on Thursday 20 June and the week will culminate with a networking lunch on 21 June.