New business group set up to push for Government investment in SW
A new business group has been formed to advise Government decision makers – but stressed it is not in competition with other South West business organisations.
B4SW will provide information and reports to the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) and ensure businesses across the region have a strong voice in discussions over Government investment.
And Chris Marrow, B4SW chairman, insisted B4SW was not designed to tread on the toes of other organisations such as Devon Chamber of Commerce or Devon and Cornwall Business Council.
“We have no intention of competing with other business groups,” Mr Marrow said. “They are doing good stuff.”
He explained that B4SW may be new, but is actually a “restructuring” of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s (HotSW LEP) business forum.
That body was set up by the LEP, but was nevertheless independent of it, in order to provide business engagement.
But the forum was often mistaken as being part of the LEP, Chris Marrow, B4SW chairman, explained.
So, he said, B4SW has been formed as a community interest company (CIC), a type of social enterprise, to provide “a better structure to that of the forum, which had been “an informal group”.
Mr Marrow said the new organisation would report to the LEP, the organisation created by the coalition Government in 2011 to determine investment priorities, but is not constrained by the HotSW area of Devon and parts of Somerset.
“We meet around the region and will cover Cornwall,” Mr Marrow said, at an early meeting held in Plymouth.
“It’s a forum in which business people can come together and explore ideas and put their expertise back into the community for the advantage of the region.”
BOARD MEMBERS: The executive board of B4SW
Mr Marrow said B4SW is composed of business people with vast experience in sectors such as maritime, supply chain, education, rural development and overseas trade.
“We have business people with particular expertise, a lot of experience in international affairs, with overseas contacts, and work with people in Africa and China,” he said.
He said the executive board has links to various other organisations such as universities and colleges, Chambers of Commerce, and the Federation of Small Businesses.
“The objective is to help businesses develop in the South West,” he said. “That includes improving exports, productivity, and job creation.”
He said B4SW would provide “blue sky thinking” and supply reports to the LEP.
He gave examples of studies into biofuels, ballast water management and kelp (seaweed) farming.
B4SW has also arranged a visit from transport training experts in South Africa and had discussions with Plymouth University and Flybe about maritime and aviation training.
Tim Jones, a B4SW board member, said the aim is also to bring together all business organisations across the HotSW and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEPs.
He said it was vital businesses shared a unified voice in order to push for Government investment, especially as political devolution is on the agenda.
“A combined business voice is essential, and becoming more so as we move down the devolution agenda and anther round of Government austerity,” he said. “So the cooperation of the business community is crucial.
“With devolution, although there is talk about business engagement, there’s a fear the voice of business will diminish.
“Combine that with the problems Whitehall has about infrastructure investment in the South West, it’s vital we have a single voice coming from the business community.”
By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, Herald
(Publicity generated by Dorcas Media)