Ian Larrard, Director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Initiative, part of Business West, looks back on the past 12 months and considers what 2016 holds for Swindon and Wiltshire businesses. He said:
“The year 2015 will live long in the memory for the prosperity and political drama it brought. The standout event was a general election that sent shock waves across the country. Opinion pollsters were left suitably embarrassed as the predicted hung parliament disappeared and a Conservative majority unfolded. Reminiscent of a game of musical chairs, our region mirrored the national picture with Conservative gains and Lib Dem losses.
Looking past the politics, we’ve seen a series of economic boosts this year. Our region’s unemployment fell to the lowest level in the country, our exports bucked the national trend, and business confidence amongst Swindon and Wiltshire firms stands at a very healthy 65%.
The coming year is set to be even more positive as we look forward to a year of celebrations. 2016 marks a momentous occasion for our town as we celebrate what is effectively Swindon’s 175th birthday.
The decision by Great Western Railway directors in 1841 to give the rail works the go ahead, put Swindon on the map, creating an industrial powerhouse which is the reason our economy is as strong as it is today.
Swindon 175 presents a great opportunity, not only to celebrate our heritage, but to use it as a springboard for future growth. The anniversary gives us a chance to showcase Swindon’s track record as a place of economic innovation, with a thriving business community which will help us enhance ‘brand Swindon’ to attract new waves of investment and visitors.
As chair of the Steering Group of Swindon 175, I know that there is a buzz amongst the business community. We already have a range of organisations involved and even more have shown an appetite to do so. Swindon 175 can raise the profile of our town as a place to live and work and with more business backing we can use the momentum to stimulate another 175 years of growth.
With a year-long programme of events lined up we urge more firms to come forward so we can make 2016 a truly memorable year with a great legacy.
As we celebrate the holiday season, the business community can take confidence from a prosperous year and know that the picture looks positive for 2016.”
Business West is one of the most influential business leadership organisations in the UK, representing over 16,000 businesses in the South West including their network of Chambers of Commerce members in Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. To find out more visit: www.businesswest.co.uk
Pictured above: Ian Larrard, director of The Initiative Swindon and Wiltshire, part of Business West