A new cross-border partnership of business leaders will “speak with one voice” to get the priorities for the region’s economy heard in Westminster.
Katherine Bennett CBE, senior vice president of Airbus UK and chair of the Western Gateway has appealed for industry ambassadors to work alongside her to shape the project, which she described as “a powerhouse waiting to happen”.
The vision to drive improved infrastructure, investment, internationalisation and inclusive growth for seven cities stretching down the M4 corridor was first revealed in July 2019, following a report stating the partnership would be the missing piece of the jigsaw in the economic map of Britain to rival the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.
Those behind the project say the need for a strong united voice has never been more pertinent as the business community looks to overcome the challenges posed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking at an online business meeting hosted by Business West, Bennett said: “We do believe we have a lot of great things going for us. As a business leader, I have a passionate belief that business often follows business and I am so keen to get a load of business ambassadors working alongside me.
“This is not going to be an easy task and it’s not going to happen overnight. The only way we can do that I feel is by us having a leadership group and with business alongside us and endeavour to show how this western part of the UK, that we’re all so happy and proud to both live and work in, can contribute to the nation’s wealth.”
The partnership incorporates cities that stretch along the M4 corridor from Swindon and across the Welsh border to Cardiff and Swansea, and in the north from Gloucester and Cheltenham to Bath and Bristol.
Business leaders and politicians behind the project anticipate it could boost the economy by £56billion by 2030 and help the region lead the UK’s transition to a net zero future. It brings together cities with a combined 4.4m people, ten universities, 156,000 businesses and a £107billion economy.
Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, the new president of the British Chambers of Commerce, also spoke at the online event, saying the journey to recovery has three phases: the restart, the rebuild and the renew phase.
James Durie, the chief executive of the Chambers of Commerce and West of England Initiative at Business West, added: “We have a region that has a highly energised business community that is engaged and focused on the strategic challenges we face post Covid-19.
“Katherine talked about the need to support our aerospace industry, which is one of the flagships for our region’s economy, but also the opportunity to work with her and get fully behind a powerful sub national approach. We know business wants to do this and is so ambitious for this region.
“They know we need this part of the country heard in Whitehall and its role properly recognised and understood as part of the national conversation and we look forward to working with Katherine and the partnership to enable our businesses to make this happen.”
Main photo of the Severn Estuary and bridge for Destination Bristol © paulbox