Partnership spreading the word about what Forest has to offer
THE Forest Economic Partnership is gearing up for a big year in 2019. And it is encouraging all local businesses, small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs to sign up to the organisation and have their voices heard.
Launched in January with a handful of stakeholders, FEP has grown to have 150 members representing more than 100 organisations and businesses.
And it has secured significant commitment from its business members and volunteed to take on senior roles.
FEP was formed to give the Forest of Dean a voice in the Glos2050 big conversation and to deliver a thriving and sustainable economy.
This aim is already coming to fruition by bringing the right people together at the right time to communicate a simple message: “The Forest of Dean is well and truly open for business.”
Four Sme-led sub-groups – digital connectivity, education and skills, bridges and borders plus transport and infrastructure – have been meeting monthly to identify key issues and objectives.
They are forming action-oriented plans for 2019.
Chairman Andrew Callard shared these plans at a stakeholder meeting at the Forest’s new Gloucestershire College campus at Cinderford, leaving members with the clear message that exciting times are ahead.
The Forest of Dean has historically been poor at shouting about its successes, a message reinforced at the meeting by Business West director Ian Mean.
He said: “The Forest Economic Partnership has been going for nine months, and has produced a set of excellent plans that bode well for the economic growth of the area.
“I am impressed that there is a driving leadership for the FEP, with plans to match, in the shape of Andrew Callard who is a good marketing man.
“Those plans to develop growth seem realistic. I would go as far as to say that I have never seen a better set of plans to deliver such realistic economic growth for a rural community.
“But if the Forest is to make real progress, they must get better at shouting about their successes.”
In its first year, FEP has engaged with key organisations, lobbied key network providers and improved communication to businesses via a dedicated Twitter handle @FEP2050 and the hashtag #FOD2050.
Bringing businesses and schools together via the education and skills sub-group has resulted in the introduction of a flexible work placement scheme at Dene Magna School in Mitcheldean, improving the flexibility for students looking for work experience opportunities.
An action group is looking to build on this success, by delivering an Inspiring the Forest event programme for 2019 to highlight businesses and raise aspirations.
Having already contributed to a number of key consultations, including Glos2050, Cross-rail Franchise, Dene Magna Sixth Form, House of Lords Select Committee Rural Economy and Forest Community Hospital, they have now been invited to consult on the Forest of Dean Local Plan 2041.
This is a huge milestone for FEP, for the first time giving Forest businesses the opportunity to influence council plans.
Speakers at the stakeholder meeting, Ian Mean (Business West), Andrew Maliphant (The Community Works), Forest of Dean District Council regeneration manager Wendy Jackson, chairman Andrew Callard and Councillors Roger James and Tim Gwilliam