Ann’s mission is to galvanise growth in new economic zone

DrAnnLimb'new chair of SEMLEP
DrAnnLimb'new chair of SEMLEP

INTEGRITY, trust and a desire to see businesses helping to create social justice are some of the driving forces of the first person to chair a new economic partnership body covering Milton Keynes and the surrounding counties.

Quaker Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, 58, from Stony Stratford, has been appointed as the unpaid head of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and takes up the reins officially tomorrow (Sept 30).

Dr Ann gave her first media interview to Business Citizen. The keen cyclist said: “I am 100 per cent behind wealth creation. What really matters is what you do with the money.

“Quaker businesses have a great tradition in this country, the early banks, Clarks Shoes. I am all for making money!”

But Quakers, said Ann, also have a strong commitment to businesses with a purpose of enhancing social justice and of being trustworthy. She aims to “live up to those values.”

Plain speaking Dr Ann is also known as a passionate champion of Milton Keynes through her work leading the new city’s failed World Cup host bid.

Her close association with Milton Keynes is something Ann is acutely aware of and it was raised at her interview for the post. How will she be able to represent other parts of the SEMLEP patch – from Luton in the south to north of Northamptonshire?

“Whoever chairs SEMLEP would come from somewhere in the region,” said Ann, who is the county’s deputy lieutenant.

“I think the way of dealing with it is to acknowledge I am someone who really cares about and is passionate about promoting people or regions I believe in.

“Our region has some fantastic businesses and places in it.”

As well as wearing various hats, Ann is also currently a non-executive director of Milton Keynes based company DRS Data Research and Services, a leader in scanning technologies that enable the electronic capture of data in examinations, census and elections.

She also holds directorships of two other enterprises in the South East Midlands area – briteyellow, an innovative, super fast wireless broadband provider and Skills2Learn, an award-winning company that develops e-learning, virtual reality, and creative multimedia solutions.

She has also founded two successful social enterprises – the Women Leadership Network and the Helena Kennedy Foundation. She sits on the national council of the Institute of Directors and was responsible for the successful implementation of the UK government’s flagship e-learning initiative learndirect.

So clearly, she’s someone who knows how to multi-task in a major way!

SEMLEP is a partnership body made up of a board of 12 directors drawn equally from the private and public sectors.

It will be appointing a paid chief executive in time with the aim of creating vital jobs and growth in the local economy. It has already attracted money into the area and it’s seen the creation of an Enterprise Zone in Northampton.

Ann, whose first experience of business was as a three-year-old helping out in her dad’s butcher’s shop, sees her role as being an advocate and champion for the region.

“It’s about getting government to come to the region,” she said.

She’s also focused on persuading the leaders of global companies in the region – like Volkswagen, Coca-Cola Enterprise and Amazon – to become ambassadors for SEMLEP.

“I want them to have a greater sense of pride in the region,” she said. This might include trying to persuade them to put references to towns or SEMLEP on letterheads.

The former principal of Milton Keynes College added: “It’s about promotion, pride, positioning and making progress.

“There is huge room for strategic thinking, thinking in an innovative way.

“It is a good time for innovation and for getting people to think strategically, about sharing things with others across a wider area.”

Sectors she sees as central to the future are universities and knowledge, motorsport, high end engineering and arts, culture, music and sport.

In summary, Brian Hibbert CBE, the outgoing interim chair of SEMLEP said: “I am confident that Ann has the experience and drive rapidly to establish SEMLEP as one of the leading economic powerhouses of the country.”