2017 has been a productive year for the LEP with several major milestones reached. There have been many highlights, from Tim Peake opening the Airbus Foundation Discovery Space in January, to the Building Solutions Conference in the Autumn which tackled the issue of Hertfordshire’s housing shortage, and most recently, the start of construction work by green developer Prologis on the county’s new Enviro-Tech Enterprise Zone which is expected to create thousands of new jobs within the sphere of environmental technologies.
Our Envoy Programme is completing its first full year and is now supported by 20 business representatives from across a broad spectrum of industries. They, together with our business-led Board, will play a critical role in taking the local Industrial Strategy forward, with LEPs being given the mandate to steer the local growth agenda thanks to our unique private and public sector partnerships. We will be consulting with businesses every step of the way in 2018 as we help deliver a local Industrial Strategy that plays to our assets and potentials.
Our key sector assets were identified in the East of England Science & Innovation Audit; a survey of cutting-edge innovation taking place within industry and the public sector, conducted to inform Government of regional strengths for potential future funding streams and foreign direct investment. To this end, we worked with Hertfordshire’s leading research organisations to map the region’s strength in Life Sciences, Agri-Tech, Advanced Manufacturing & Materials, and ICT.
One of the main reasons I joined the LEP was to improve the prospects of our future and current workforce. It has been heartening that so much of 2017 has been focused on taking this priority forward. Businesses and local education providers helped re-shape our Skills Strategy at the Skills Summit 2017. This was particularly pertinent following the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget which outlined key proposals to boost productivity.
While Hertfordshire’s overall economic position relative to other areas remains strong with high rates of economic participation, low unemployment, a comparatively well skilled workforce and a growing enterprise base, there still lies a major challenge ahead to meet the demand for skills in a tightening labour market. We addressed this issue at our Value of Experience workshop in November which highlighted the importance of older workers as part of the solution.
Lastly, it is with great sadness that we reported the death of Hertfordshire County Council’s former leader Cllr Robert Gordon. His successor, Cllr David Williams, has played a pivotal role on the LEP Board to date and I look forward to strengthening our partnership further. 2017 also saw the biggest reshuffle to the LEP Board since the LEP’s inception, with a significant number of Board Members’ fixed terms due to come to an end by March 2018. I am hugely enthused by the calibre and breadth of experience within our Board and know they will bring the strategic leadership that will be pivotal in delivering a local Industrial Strategy over the next 12 months.
Now all there is left to do is to wish you all a very happy Christmas with your loved ones and a wonderful new year, and thank you as always for your continued support.
Mark Bretton, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP