All those present at March’s Tees Valley Business Club found Managing Director Stephen Catchpole’s presentation very useful on the future plans of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU). I am not a big fan of LEPs to be honest, some of them have been quite ineffective but it is clear that TVU is punching above its weight.
Stephen outlined an ambitious target of creating 25,000 net new full-time equivalent jobs in the private sector in the next ten years if we are to transform the local economy. He explained that Tees Valley had seen 28,000 jobs in the previous 10 years but many had been in the public sector. It is clear with Government cuts that we have to look elsewhere as job losses are now quite severe there. He said he thought the biggest growth would come in the business and professional services sector, but also in health and engineering. He explained that we still have high rates of unemployment, particularly for young people and TVU is keen to support measures to try to rectify that by offering subsidies to employers taking on new workers.
As an indication of where some of the growth might come, I enjoyed hearing from Dan Riley from Spearhead Interactive in Middlesbrough about how his award-winning young business is developing a brand new digital sphere and from Bob Makin at Sock Monkey Studios who is also growing a new digital business. Two young men with passion and determination to succeed and to take others on as they grow. I also met a young woman from Eaglescliffe who is going to be a opening a new florist and gift shop at Orchard Estate shops in Eaglescliffe with her sister - and isn’t it good to see the roof going up for the new parade by the way, not long now until completion.
As someone who has spent 7 years supporting new businesses it is particularly good to see young people taking their first steps. I have several on my campaign team who are finding it difficult to find a job, setting up your own business is a great remedy for those with imaginative ideas. Sadly the excellent individualised support we could expect from Business Link was one of the first casualties of the Coalition who in my view are utterly clueless about what business really needs. Fortunately TVU have some plans to introduce a new system, COMPASS which should start to fill some of the huge gap left behind.
As with all business networking, we exchanged business cards; it was disappointing that not a single one I now have in my little stash carries a twitter handle, even though everyone I asked said they do have an account. I had a good look through the nea2fguide too and didn’t spot any there either. Come on designers, branding agencies and printers, stop letting your clients down. You are missing an absolutely vital business promotion trick here.
I have sent off my subs for the business club today as it will obviously be a very useful group for me to be part of on several fronts.