County seeks to embrace global market place

Trade trip to China. Coun Colin Davie, executive county councillor for Economy and Place.
Trade trip to China. Coun Colin Davie, executive county councillor for Economy and Place.

Change is coming to the county with millions of pounds worth of investment - and there will be no place for private sector businesses who are, at present, ‘simply not up to the job’ according to one leading councillor.

Colin Davie, executive councillor for Economy and Place Lincolnshire County Council, has recently returned from an investment seeking mission to China, and said: “If we are to attract high spenders from the south we have to up our game.

“We (the County Council) are doing our bit by looking at ways to improve the infrastructure and get Lincolnshire moving quicker, as well as looking what can be done with public transport.

“But we have to look to the private sector for investment too.”

He led a trade mission to Hunan in October, explaining: “I have long believed that our long term economic future will be shaped by the powerhouse markets of the future, namely China, India and the USA and whilst it’s important to have good trading relationships with our neighbours it is more vital we secure the relationships that will shape our nation economically.

“I believe we in Lincolnshire are best when we lead, when we seize the opportunity and when we ‘make our own economic weather’.

“If we rise up to the challenges ahead, Lincolnshire and our country can truly lead the next Industrial Revolution which will be based around digital skills and technology.”

Coun Davie believed the current global economic situation with low exchange rates, a rebalancing of global economic power between China and the USA, and of course Brexit, could lead to unpredictable times for Lincolnshire businesses.

He said: “Our job at LCC in the team I lead is to try and help to provide the certainty that businesses require in order to invest in the economy, and to ensure stability exists across our key sectors.

“At the county council we have established a Brexit working group. Senior councillors are exploring the issues that will affect the county council and the local economy more widely.

“I firmly believe that there are substantial opportunities for businesses to grow, and individuals to enrich their careers, during and following Brexit.”

He said that automation can help businesses be more productive, and it can give people the opportunity to gain good jobs operating and maintaining those robots. That is why Greater Lincolnshire LEP had such a focus on robotics at its Business Live event in October.

He saw that Brexit will inevitably change trading patterns, but said there are major opportunities for businesses to trade with China, for institutions to generate investment from China, and for students to learn in China.

Coun Davie said: “Our small trade visit to Changsha in Hunan province during October took place in order to promote these opportunities. “Educational, manufacturing, and agricultural opportunities are now being directly pursued following our visit.

“We hope to have taken substantial steps forward on these opportunities by the time that our Chinese partners visit Lincolnshire in April 2018.”

A major study into the utility constraints in Lincolnshire has been carried out, giving a clear picture of the challenges faced by businesses in implementing their growth plans. This will be used to make a strong case for investment.

Coun Davie said local MPs have done their bit to in raising this issue within Westminster, singling out Sleaford’s MP in this battle: “I was particularly grateful to Dr Caroline Johnson for specifically raising the utility problems that Lincolnshire businesses face during ministerial questions in the House of Commons.

The other main issue he said had been identified was giving talented local school leavers the right business skills for employers to retain that talent, something they have done by attracting £13m of grants for training programmes, to help young people to stay and build their careers here.

He pointed to the county’s vibrant and growing visitor economy and the recent success of the Doomsday Book exhibition in Lincoln as well as the opening of a new marina at Sutton Bridge, saying: “I look forward to the events surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force doing the same.”

Coun Davie said: “2018 can be Lincolnshire’s year - all of us need to shout even more loudly from the rooftops about how fabulous our county is and what a great place it is to work in, to live in and to invest in.”