A new organisation called the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, or LEP, is being launched in April to boost jobs and attract new industry right across Dorset. It will be driven by the private sector but will work in partnership with local authorities in the county.
The LEP’s aim is to create an environment through improved connectivity and business infrastructure in which existing businesses can flourish and which is attractive for new start-ups and investment from the UK and abroad. This will deliver higher paid and better skilled jobs throughout Dorset.
In 2010 the Government offered local areas the chance to submit proposals to take control of their future economic development through the funding of Local Enterprise Partnerships. LEPs haven been set up because the government feels they are based on more meaningful economic areas, making them better able to identify the needs of local economy and, vitally, to speed up their recovery.
The Dorset LEP is one of only 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships announced so far. The LEP is run by a board, made up of nine members from the business community from across Dorset, plus six local authority and academic representatives. It was formed in December last year and is currently developing a business plan to set out a clear path to delivering a brighter economic future for the whole of Dorset. This will be detailed at the launch in April. In the meantime, a number of initiatives are already being progressed, the need for which were identified through the extensive consultation process in the run up to the formation of the LEP last year.
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One top priority is getting Dorset connected to fast broadband access, in order to attract new business and support existing enterprises, particularly in rural areas. The government has allocated £530m to deliver the best Superfast broadband across the country in the lifetime of the current parliament, with potential for a further £300m up to 2017.
The Dorset LEP has shaped the local Broadband Plan to gain almost £10 million from the Government, to be match-funded locally, with the overall project likely to be worth a total of £40 million by 2017. It will improve access to broadband for 172,670 premises, both business and residential. Timing for the roll-out is expected to be announced shortly, but importantly, all councils came together to provide funding.
The LEP also supports Rural-Net, the network for enterprising rural businesses, built on the legacy of the Rural Business Clubs. Rural-Net launches on 27th January.
The LEP also aims to improve the performance of existing business in Dorset and to aid the growth of new ones via inward investment via an allocation from the Growing Places Fund, set up to boost local economic activity. A further priority is to boost the skills of the current and future workforce.
Inward investment will also be encouraged by targeted approaches at business events across the county.
LEP Chairman is Gordon Page who comments: “There’s no doubt that these are challenging economic times both nationally and globally, but as a board we strongly believe that the new Dorset LEP will position the county in a far better position to attract vital new investment, to create more and better skilled jobs whilst harnessing the potential of our fabulous natural environment.
“We firmly believe that with steering from the private-sector, we can bring Dorset to the forefront of government thinking to achieve much-needed investment. We know this is a great place to do business, but we need to get that message out not just to the UK but to the rest of the globe!”
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