Coventry and Warwickshire has laid strong foundations for growth over the coming decades and must ensure all of its communities benefit from that, a major conference has heard.
Around 250 business and civic leaders from across the city, county and wider region packed into the Ricoh Arena for the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Economic Conference.
From Brexit to broadband and from people to power, the conference covered a series of key topics that could affect the region’s economic growth in the next few years.
The first session heard from Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, and from Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport before a panel session on the economy, chaired by Jonathan Browning, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Street said the West Midlands had spent years of being the ‘sick man of the UK’ but was now undergoing a revival that was helping to change perceptions of the region.
And he told the audience that, within the region, Coventry and Warwickshire is leading when it comes to economic growth and jobs.
He said the challenge was to think globally and that the economic growth had to be inclusive of all communities.
Browning said there was a great deal to be optimistic about in the city and the county and that great strides had been made and that Coventry and Warwickshire was the best performing LEP area in the country in terms of growth, GVA and productivity.
He said the region had attracted 53 foreign investment projects in 2017/18, creating 3,500 new jobs. “We should not obsess about the hype and hearsay,” he said, “we should look at the hard facts.
Jeremy Wright talked about the investment in broadband and touched upon the topic of Brexit before the conference heard from Maggie Philbin of Teentech.
Skills was tackled after the coffee break in a panel led by Angela Joyce, of headline sponsors WCG Apprentices, and conference heard that there was a need to upskill local people.
Angela said: “Our message to businesses is to come and talk to us. We can’t engage enough, we want to hear what companies need and see how we can support that.”
Fleur Sexton, of PET-Xi – which also sponsored the event, added: “This is a great time to be working with young people.”
Martin Reeves, chief executive of Coventry City Council, and Monica Fogarty, of Warwickshire County Council, spoke of a more joined up approach across the region, before keynote speaker Jon Snow took to the stage and urged the audience to believe in people.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was fantastic conference and heard from key leaders across our region, concluded by a wonderful keynote speech by Jon Snow.
“We know that there are big issues and still uncertainty around Brexit, which were touched upon throughout the event.
“It was also clear, however, that there is a great deal to be extremely positive about, particularly in this region. We are growing and have a strong, diverse economy which our speakers talked about.
“My message to businesses, in these uncertain times, is that they are a force for good in the region. We must continue to trade locally, grow our economy and ensure that our economic growth reaches into all of our communities.”