With a geographic area bigger than Wales and a population greater than that of Scotland, the South West has over 200,000 registered businesses which form the backbone to the £125 billion GDP economy of the region.
Key industrial sectors include aerospace and advanced engineering, food and drink, tourism, creative and tech, construction and a raft of service industries.
Indeed, in employment terms 85% of workers are employed in the services sector with the remaining 15% shared between manufacturing and agriculture. About 6,000 of our businesses export goods, with a total value of circa £10 billion a year. Unfortunately imports account for approximately £15billion/annum leaving us with a deficit on our Balance of Trade. Key buyers of South West goods include USA, Eire, Netherlands and the Middle East.
Wealth creation and enterprise has always been a speculative effort and yet it seems that currently running a business has got even more complicated. Pandemics, climate change, inclusivity, digitisation and Brexit are relatively new factors a business needs to take into account. Nonetheless economies still revolve around some basic factors of production and within these, land and supporting infrastructure, particularly in the large and relatively sparsely populated South West region, are vital.
Domestic and overseas trade requires infrastructure; ports, airports, broadband, road and rail are vital for receiving supplies, shipping finished goods and moving staff around. Whilst, rightly or wrongly, we take for granted other supporting infrastructure including energy, water and other utilities, business always has something to say about access to talent and capital.
All of which indicates, that the business community and its representative bodies, including the Chambers of Commerce (CoC), Confederation of British Industries (CBI), Institute of Directors (IOD), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), as well as quasi -governmental bodies including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and emerging ‘Powerhouses’ of the South West should be really interested in, and supportive of, the work of the South West Infrastructure Partnership (SWIP).