Conference looks to future

Chair of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Jim Strewart, sets out LEP's ambitions for the county at its Annual Conference 2019.

POSITIVE: Chair of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership Jim Stewart sets out ambitions for the county

Ambitious plans to double Dorset’s economy and create 80,000 jobs were among the key aims highlighted at a major conference.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s annual conference also gave an update about development of its Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) during the event at Bournemouth University.

And delegates learned about exciting proposals to capitalise on the county’s rich potential for aquaculture.

Other highlights included an update about the Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Cultural Enquiry to shape a long term vision for the area and the re-launch of LEP’s Dorset Ambassadors scheme to champion the county.

Jim Stewart, Chair of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “If we want Government to invest in Dorset, they have to know that we are an ambitious county.

“We have an aim over the next 20 years to double the size of the economy, taking us up to £36bn in terms of productivity and output and creating 80,000 jobs.

“We want a thriving local economy that is sustainable, innovative and inclusive.”

Dorset LEP is leading on the production of a Local Industrial Strategy that will capitalise on the county’s unique qualities to realise its economic potential.

Delegates heard that themes emerging from consultation with business have included ageing populations, talent recruitment and retention, housing affordability, work-life balance, the ‘Dorset’ brand, digital and creative industries, productivity and promotion of the area as a vibrant ‘Coastal City Region’.

Prof Nigel Jump, of Bournemouth University, also presented LIS research and identified three broad areas for going forward: Dorset as a Coastal City Region; bespoke connectivity for better transport links, digital capabilities and infrastructure; and social and environmental fusion to combine business growth and social wellbeing.

The LEP will continue to consult and look at feedback in detail before the LIS is launched in the autumn.

Another key part of the conference was the launch of the county’s ‘High Potential Opportunity’ for aquaculture, including fish farming and processing.

Rob Emony, partnership manager from the Department for International Trade, and Atlas Elektronik UK director of business development, John Sutcliffe, told delegates Dorset is a unique location nationwide for aquaculture.

Other speakers at the conference included Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra chief executive, Dougie Scarfe, who outlined progress on the BCP Cultural Enquiry, and the new leader of Dorset Council, Cllr Spencer Flower plus chief executive of Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council, Graham Farrant.

LEP director Lorna Carver led the conference and hosted an interactive voting session posing questions on how to boost Dorset’s economy.

Results included backing the creation of a Coastal City Region, greater connectivity, and social and environmental fusion.

Delegates at the Dorset LEP Annual Conference have their say on the county's future through a special interactive voting poll.

Delegates at the Dorset LEP Annual Conference have their say on the county’s future through a special interactive voting poll.

Delegates also identified transport and digital infrastructure, recruitment of skilled workers and housing as key issues.

And they concluded that high tech industries, creative technologies, and agri-tech and aquaculture were the sectors with the greatest potential in the next 20 years.

Visit the LEP website at https://dorsetlep.co.uk/ for more about the LIS and the new aquaculture initiative.