Six of the best are showcase sectors

SIX high-profile business sectors have been selected to promote economic recovery in the region.

The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) brings 11 councils and the private sector together to increase job creation in a region stretching from Luton to Northampton and Aylesbury to Biggleswade.

SEMLEP’s draft strategy was revealed in Bedford on Monday (January 30) in the fourth of a series of roadshows being taken around the region.

The sectors chosen as giving the region of nearly 2million people its unique selling point are: Logistics, the green economy, high performance engineering, creative industries, the visitor economy and advanced technologies and manufacturing.

Dr Ann Limb, who became the organisation’s unpaid private sector chairman three months ago, insisted other sectors would not be ignored but these are the ones the 13-strong board of volunteers would focus on.

Working groups have been set up, under the leadership of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Cheryl Smart, to bring more businesses of all sizes into SEMLEP, which is one of more than 30 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in the UK. Equivalent in size to the Leeds LEP, it is the seventh largest in the country.

Dr Limb said: “We have one united purpose, to create jobs, to build houses and to develop the economies of each area. It is a united commitment to growth across the political spectrum.”

But Dr Limb recognised there is a potential for conflict if, for example, housebuilding is not acceptable in one area.

“There will always be conflicts and disagreements but we can deal with them with maturity and intelligence,” said Dr Limb. “Up to now we have found a way to find ways through for the good of the SEMLEP region.” She said councils had been good at picking up the phone and talking.

The Liberal-Democrat mayor of Bedford Borough Dave Hodgson sits on the SEMLEP board with Conservative Central Bedfordshire cabinet member Tricia Turner and Luton Labour stalwart Roy Davis. Mr Hodgson said: “If we can’t have something in Bedford, then perhaps it can be close to Bedford. It is better we have growth in the SEMLEP area than in Germany or France.

“There will be problems but there is also a will to solve them where we can.”

SEMLEP was behind a recent successful bid to set up an Enterprise Zone in Northampton and is set to receive an income from it.

Councillor Turner added: “What we all want is decent infrastructure. We need to work together to get that.”

She added she wanted to help create an area where people did not commute out as much, with jobs near to where they live.

Some of SEMLEP’s other aims are to increase net new jobs and to argue for better broadband for all areas.

But Dr Limb added the partnership didn’t have the resources to be able to do everything. She added: “We won’t be able to achieve masses but it is an opportunity to help things along the way.”

l A SEMLEP roadshow will be held on Thursday, February 9, from 10am-12noon at Butterfield Business Park.Then, on March 22, delegates from around the region will be attending the annual Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) Conference and Exhibition at the home of the MKDons football club in Milton Keynes.

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