Six-year plan to boost jobs and business on council’s agenda

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A new plan to increase job opportunities and boost businesses in Calderdale over the next six years will be discussed by councillors today.

Members of Calderdale Council’s cabinet will look at the blueprint which it is hoped will strengthen the local economy.

The draft Business and Economy Strategy: 2014-2020 sets out the local authority’s programme to support business and enterprise, attract inward investment, develop the skills of the local workforce and increase job opportunities for the next six years.

Councillor Barry Collins, cabinet member for economy and environment, said: “Calderdale’s Economic Task Force has developed this ambitious strategy after identifying areas where we can stimulate growth, attract new firms to the area and provide additional support to existing businesses to help them expand.

“Local companies tell us that they are optimistic about the future and that Calderdale is a great place to live and work. Now we want to ensure this message reaches the wider economic community, making Calderdale a national and, in some cases, international destination for business.”

An independent survey, which was commissioned in January, found that businesses in Calderdale are performing well and reported that they would be willing to recruit apprentices, new graduates and unemployed residents.

Many businesses are considering expansion but they also identified a need for workforce skill development.

The survey found that there is a strong link between businesses which had experienced high growth in the last five years and those which had received mentoring support.

Calderdale Council’s Business and Economy Strategy, which responds to some of the survey’s findings, covers six themes: key account management, site unlocking, enterprise culture, employability, marketing Calderdale and financial resilience.

The council has identified the top 20 businesses within Calderdale and plans to work closely with them over the next few years. It also wants to work with key sectors which are predicted to grow over the coming years: the creative and digital industries, financial and business services, advanced manufacturing and engineering and green businesses.

Resources will be dedicated to opening up new sites and buildings to house Calderdale’s growing businesses and attract new companies to the area.

The local authority says it will continue to offer a full range of free services to businesses such as one to one advice, training support and access to finance.

Under the strategy, it will also create projects to encourage the development of enterprise skills in disadvantaged areas and with young people throughout Calderdale.

The council is working to identify and develop workforce skills in areas where there are currently shortages, such as within advanced engineering and manufacturing.

It has also pledged to increase the number of pre-apprenticeship and traineeship places, apprenticeships and paid work experience placements.

The council says that “Calderdale is uniquely positioned between Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire and is the perfect place to invest and thrive as a business”.

It says it will continue to help businesses remain resilient through difficult trading times, promoting a range of loans and grants to help them to grow and expand even when credit is not easily available.

A review of the way the local authority buys products and services is planned, so that local businesses are able to win council contracts, wherever compatible with good process and value.

If the report is approved by cabinet there will be a wide-ranging consultation on the draft strategy, including a business breakfast event later this month.