The Government today announced that another 12 areas have been designated as Enterprise Zones. As one of the Government’s policy platforms for growth, it is crucial that those lucky enough to receive this imprimatur make the most of the opportunity.
Six months ago, Sandwich in my East Kent constituency was hit with the devastating news that the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, was set to close. As the region’s largest private sector employer, its departure has put 4,000 jobs at risk and is threatening 3,000 other jobs within the community. Quite a body blow to an economy which after years of Labour Government had stagnated, lacked diversity, and sufficient opportunities for local residents and shares deprivation figures with Darlington!
Following a huge amount of work and preparation by local MPs, local councils and the business community in the area, I could not be more thrilled by the Chancellor’s announcement that a 99.4 hectare site between Sandwich and Ramsgate has been designated an Enterprise Zone.
But having achieved the coveted Enterprise Zone status, we must not rest, nor sit back as if our work was done. Securing Enterprise Zone status is not the end of the story – it is merely the beginning. Although Thanet and Sandwich’s enterprise package will deliver a lot for the area, companies will not automatically move onto the state of the art site from tomorrow, establish new companies overnight or employ swathes of East Kent residents in the coming weeks. Yes, we have been handed the tools to initiate and spur local growth by Government, but the onus is now on each enterprise area to actively market their region and its potential. Inward investment programmes need to be launched in all corners of the world; a concerted effort to recruit new companies to East Kent must begin; support for new company start-ups by tomorrow’s entrepreneurs must be on hand; and crucially, finance needs to be available.
It is enterprise, trade and inward investment which will create jobs for our constituents. In the 80s and 90s, the UK was considered one of the most effective countries in attracting inward investment – and with this Government’s agenda focusing on growth, it is vital we once again place priority on attracting businesses from overseas. The UK is once again becoming a good place to do business and we must market it accordingly. With a revitalised UK Trade and Investment organisation, a renewed focus by our embassies across the globe and a determination to again be the best in the business of inward investment, we can fly the British flag, drive growth and create jobs.
And as MPs we must also be part of this inward investment campaign. For my part, I am planning to go to Sweden to recruit new businesses to East Kent from the renewable energy sector. It is incumbent on each and every one of us to promote our regions and its skills base to the rest of the world. Where will you be going to sell the UK?