Business Peak District attended the first Derbyshire Dales Chief Executives Forum at Cromford Creative, Cromford Mill, in July, organised by Paul Wilson, CEO of Derbyshire Dales District Council.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. McLoughlin were keen to hear both sides of doing business in the region – the benefits and challenges.
- There was deemed a lack of serviced land to support business expansion enabled by provision of new access and road infrastructure at Ashbourne Airfield Industrial Estate – about which the District Council were aware and in discussions with landowners
- High quality Dales environment is a key asset but can create challenges in terms of planning and development
- Recruitment issues for several businesses, particularly lower skilled roles / those involving shift working. The lack of rural transport is a key obstacle
- Some businesses have previously relied on apprenticeships to feed growth but pool starting to dry up
- Becoming increasingly expensive to recruit – some businesses have established internal talent management schemes
- Out-migration of younger people from the area
- Key infrastructure challenges – impact of future growth on A6
- Jobs growth Vs productivity growth – with near full employment in the Derbyshire Dales the emphasis of Government funding schemes needs to be shifted to the latter
Brexit was discussed and echoed much of the sentiment heard in the media:
- Challenges associated with Brexit but businesses have to get on with it – ‘it is what it is’
- Brexit has created uncertainty and confidence has been affected e.g. downturn in medium term investments in large construction projects
- Visitor economy benefitting from weaker pound but access to overseas labour is a concern
- Benefits for those exporting but import costs gone up
- Current exchange rate good for agriculture but preparing farmers for changes in the future is a big challenge. Maintaining free movement of migrant labour is also key for this sector
Along with Five Asks recently presented to Mr. McLoughlin, additional comments were:
- Improve broadband speeds across the whole district (BT often go where easy to deliver) and lobby providers to improve mobile phone coverage
- Review Council buying polices and make procurement easier for SMEs – Preston City Council example cited
- Work with local employers to develop better links with secondary schools and ‘feeder’ primaries to break down perceptions and boost interest and throughput of young people into engineering, manufacturing and minerals and aggregates sectors
Robin Eyre, Chairman of Business Peak District, said: “The meeting was a great opportunity for businesses to meet Sir Patrick and the Derbyshire Dales team, and discuss views on developing opportunities and employment for a thriving local economy, which is so critical to our success and prosperity as a region.
“We encourage all businesses in the Peak District to become members of Business Peak District so we can represent them to the councils and our partners who play an important role in planning and development, infrastructure, employment, productivity and skills.”
The meeting will hopefully become an annual event so please do let us know your concerns and success stories so we can bring them to the attention of the powers that be.
Chair of Business Peak District