Development of an economic growth strategy – Somerset West and Taunton Council
Somerset West and Taunton Council appointed Deyton Bell to develop a new Economic Development Strategy to reflect the changing landscape following Brexit and the establishment of the new Council.
The Council were seeking an economic development strategy to set out how the economy could transition to a more productive one based on knowledge, ultimately leading to greater levels of investment and higher paid jobs. The strategy set a baseline position, having identified the challenges the District faced, as well as a series of objectives and an action plan to begin to address the issues in partnership with businesses and local partners.
People, Place and Business.
The whole approach is structured around People, Place and Business:
Strategy: Five stages of activity
Our strategy identified the challenges the District faced, and set out an action plan to begin to address the issues in partnership with businesses and local partners.
We met with the client for an inception meeting to finalise a plan of action
We reviewed the intelligence available, analysed and planned incorporation of findings in the interim report. We put in place a regular series of tele-conference and face to face Project Team meetings and finalised timings for the stakeholder engagement.
We delivered an extensive programme of stakeholder engagement including online survey targeted at 150 businesses, one to one meetings and telephone calls with stakeholders. We organised and led three workshops into key themes including Town Centre, Infrastructure and Business Support. Invitations to the workshops and to engage in 1-1 dialogue were distributed to including businesses, business representative groups, officers/members, the County Council, various HMG agencies. In total over 80 individuals attended the workshops.
We presented initial findings at the client Member Briefing and delivered a Project Group review session.
This included production of a Final Draft Strategy; Appendices; Power point presentation slides and agreement of DB to attend future presentations of the report as required to stakeholders.
Recommendations and draft strategy
Strategic Employment Site Development
The council was recommended to work closely with agents and developers during the development of the Local Plan to ensure that there is sufficient viable commercial employment land to meet future needs, supporting existing growth and retention of businesses and responding to future knowledge economy employment site and property needs from inward investors.
SWT were advised to implement a business engagement strategy by segmenting and identifying a number of strategic business and institutional relationships for strategic account management, adopting a Key Account Management approach to relationship management and ongoing support and aftercare. This will include an ongoing 1:1 proactive engagement programme, sector specific business engagement activity and business membership body engagement as well as informal roundtables, a series of breakfast briefings across the district and an annual event.
Inward Investment Programme
The Council were advised to develop a targeted inward investment sector propositions for the district including place marketing, generating a targeted inward investment pipeline, account managing Foreign Direct Investment enquiries and UK relocations to the District and maintaining an up-to-date property and premises search facility. There are also some medium-longer term actions that will take longer to realise on the ground (3 years plus).
Enhanced Business Support and Innovation
There is an opportunity to review the business and innovation support over the next few years, identifying gaps and drawing on experience gained from pilot business rates retention programmes, to determine the most appropriate approach to building a sustainable Somerset wide local business and innovation ecosystem support programme, with consideration given to future skills brokerage and grants programmes.
EDF and Hinkley Point C
The development of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C represents a significant opportunity for the district’s economy but also raises a number of potential economic and social threats to the fragile local economy. It has provided the Local Authority and public sector with the opportunity to work with the local community and businesses to mitigate any adverse impacts during construction and to capitalise upon the investment to embed lasting benefits.
It is important that the District seizes the new opportunities from the next phase of development, namely Mechanical Engineering and Heating (MEH) phase and that the programme of investment in the District leaves a lasting legacy in terms of skills and business opportunities
Higher Level Educational Research institution and Innovation Park
We advised the Council to explore the potential and scope for a University in Taunton, with a business led curriculum, that will help deliver the skills businesses want, attract more inward investment and create opportunities for higher value jobs for residents. There is an opportunity to build on the UKHO innovation activity and links with other South West Universities, (such as Exeter), but also embrace other opportunities arising from the South West Institute of Technology with a focus on advanced engineering and digital, working with Bridgwater and Taunton college and the University Centre. SWT will explore and scope a study examining the future potential for a knowledge-based Innovation and Technology Park, with links to specialist centres of excellence and research Institutes linked to Higher Education and relevant Universities and Research Institutes and/or Catapults. There are opportunities to explore and validate emerging opportunities in knowledge economy sectors and clustering such as AI/Big Data and digital technologies already underway with links to the South West Institute of Technology, remote healthcare delivery linked to the care of an increasing elderly population and low carbon renewable energy and environmental technologies (including plastic waste recycling) linked to a smart Garden Town.
Coastal Communities New Tourist Attraction
We identified that there is an opportunity to consider how to enhance the future tourism offer of West Somerset taking advantage of its natural capital and opportunities linked to natural resources, renewable energy and life sciences. It could include either a cultural, leisure or scientific centre for instance
Client quote example: Neil and the team at Deyton Bell analysed every aspect of our organisation, activities and partnerships and provided tangible plans which we’ve been able to implement – with the support guiding all decisions along the journey.