2019 has been a year of change, growth and consolidation for the SWLEP, building on the foundations of our hard work last year.
The last 12 months have really shown the passion and commitment the SWLEP and our partners have for Swindon and Wiltshire.
Following the attack in Salisbury, we pulled together to move the city out of crisis and heading towards a positive future. A structured response helped this emergency situation. It was well-led by Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council, who worked together with Government departments. Salisbury is now picking up as a result of the co-ordinated effort. There are still challenges but there is a really good local and national commitment to build on Salisbury and improve it for the future.
I’m excited that the Growing Places Infrastructure Fund for Swindon and Wiltshire is now making a difference. This £8.7 million ‘revolving’, local, low interest loan pot has benefitted three firms so far, Chippenham’s Woods Group, Swindon’s Recycling Technologies and Our Wilton Community Interest Company. We are also in the process of allocating loans to other businesses. The loan fund is now available as a constant open call and so if you are interested, please get in touch.
We have recently completed our rail infrastructure project. This looks at priority areas for new services and potential new stations. Prioritisation is based on the best economic gain from any investment.
I was delighted that our £21 million Swindon Institute of Technology (IOT) bid to Government was successful. The focus of the IOT is level 4+ technical qualifications with engineering included, along with aspects of digital technology and life sciences. The capital investment will enable businesses to have appropriately skilled and competitive workforces to support growth, innovation and creativity when it completes in 2021.
Our Growth Deal Programme is currently on track to have full expenditure by 2021. Recently completed projects include the Digital Mansion House in Corsham, an incubation space for businesses working within the digital or innovation sector, as well as the Swindon Sustainable Transport pedestrian and cycle way and the extension of the duelling of the A350.
Investment in high speed connectivity is key to our future and as part of the Growth Deal we’ve invested in Ultrafast Broadband. We’ve invested £1 million into this and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has invested £2 million. The programme is being run by Wilts Online and has two projects, one in the North of Wiltshire and one in the South. They have tendered out contracts and are being run by Gigaclear (North Wilts) and BT Openreach (South Wilts). They are on track to deliver by 2020 and this will bring ultra- fast broadband supplies more than 100mb per second, in selected areas.
Our Swindon & Wiltshire Business Growth Summit at Cineworld in Swindon this October was fantastic and a real highlight for me. We have now booked the date for our 2020 Growth Summit which will be held at Salisbury Cathedral. Keep an eye on our website and social media feeds for more details as they are announced.
I’m proud that the reputation of the SWLEP has grown in the last year. Changing to a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, has been a good move. We’re demonstrating that we want to use that status to get involved in different ventures and be more commercial in what we do.
It was great to move into our new home in October. We’re now based in the Digital Mansion House in Corsham, which makes it very easy for us to move around the area to conduct our work.
In 2019 we’ve reached out to more businesses, more people, and it’s great to feel that we’re making a bigger contribution to the economy. The ambition for the coming year is to grow that even more, getting further people involved, upskilling them for a challenging business environment and ultimately helping more businesses be resilient at this time.
Wishing you a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2020.