Banking on new business
If you’re running a business in Wales and looking to expand then there’s two factors likely to influence how that happens. The first is getting hold of the necessary finance and the other is finding the right people.
The need to tackle that first hurdle was highlighted in a seminar organised last week by Seren Media and event sponsors Bevan & Buckland.
A lunchtime audience at the Vale Resort heard Giles Thorley, CEO of the newly created Development Bank of Wales, outline his vision and approach; both of which make for a refreshing change.
The new guy clearly wants the DBW to be a lot more than a rebranding of the government funding agency, Finance Wales, which it replaces. He also envisages something less mundane than being a lender of last resort.
It makes a welcome difference to hear the views of someone with a national remit who can actually draw upon high-level first-hand experience of private sector operations.
I slightly choked on my mince pie at his sanguine views on a post-Brexit Britain although the call to push through investment in times of adversity definitely struck a chord. The same can be said of his emphasis on backing growth among small & medium enterprises.
Stressing the need to help indigenous industry, and especially by boosting recruitment, came across at a business breakfast at the Towers in Jersey Marine.
Rob Jones, leader of Neath Port Talbot council, was joined by commercial cognoscenti Debra Williams, Mark Soanes and Rod Lloyd in making up a formidable panel.
They not only handled some searching questions but gave a robust account of what the locality has to offer investors and potential employers, if allowed the opportunity to develop.
Modest improvements in capital input and better connectivity figured in the scheme of things. Rob Jones was patently unimpressed with the idea a rail Metro system that could put Neath town centre on a branch line.
Not surprisingly, the City Deal came up as an issue and I got the impression that the jury remains out among the business community over the ability of partners to deliver benefits.
I anticipate that events will change this view very shortly.
Making strategies sustainable
There’s probably something symbolic in the fact that Wales was cited as the only UK nation to see a rise in unemployment in the same week that an Economic Action Plan was published in Cardiff Bay.
As strategies go though, it’s not a bad one. The approach is big on the mechanics of delivering economic growth with priority sectors, foundations and regional delivery. The only downside for me is a lack of targets and anticipated outcomes.
Something I noticed is that while the impressive 48-page document is full of three-dimensional graphics about interactions, it doesn’t once make mention of ‘sustainability’ – unlike strategies that have come before.
On the other hand, firms wanting grants will have to agree to an ‘economic contract’, including a reduction in their carbon footprint and promoting workers' health.
I guess that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Since this is the last column for 2017, I’d like to say thanks for your comments and emails over the year – even the more ‘forthright’ ones – and take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.