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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 14th March, 2012

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration

 

Business Liaison Activities

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To set out proposals for future initiatives relating to business liaison with specific emphasis on business networking in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The report does not seek to make reference to all matters relating to business support and advice but rather deals with matters relating to formal liaison arrangements with Vale of Glamorgan based businesses, through networking opportunities and events.

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet approves the proposed future business networking initiatives contained within paragraphs 23-25 of this report.

2.             That Cabinet receives a further report on the success of the arrangements and any recommendations for future initiatives within 18 months of the date of this report.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To set out arrangements for ongoing business support initiatives tailored to the current economic climate.

2.             To enable the arrangements to be reviewed as necessary.

Background

2.             This report focuses on future ways of liaising and engaging with business in the Vale of Glamorgan, specifically through networking and events.  To this end, it is relevant to outline previous and current attempts at engaging with the business sector with the aim of improving communication and networking, both between businesses and the Council.  The report however, does not refer to matters and schemes of direct business support (such as the Rural Regeneration Bursary Scheme, by way of example)

3.             The following is an outline of previous initiatives that have been either implemented by this Council or with the support of the Council.  It is important to take note of the fact that the current economic climate for business is exceedingly difficult.  Most businesses are really struggling to survive and have little desire to attend 'networking events' unless they are perceived to be of a significant value.

Economic Development Forum

4.             In the late 1990s early 2000s, the Council launched a Vale of Glamorgan Economic Development Forum.  The Forum consisted of a number of stakeholders with an interest in local companies and businesses.  Such companies included Dow Corning, British Airways, Lafarge and Cardiff Airport.  The Forum met on a quarterly basis at varying times, including breakfast, lunch and evening meetings.  Different formats were attempted in the hope of encouraging increased attendance as well as to sustain existing membership.  However, in time and despite attempts to sustain the forum, the membership diminished and the decision was taken to close the forum in the mid 2000s.

Vale Business Club

5.             The Vale Business Club (VBC) was launched in 2006.  There were in the region of 200 individuals signed up to membership and events in the Club’s infancy.  Business in Focus, the local enterprise agency was on board, being involved with the branding of the Club and organisation of the events.  In the last two years of the Club’s existence, Business in Focus took over the full time management and secretariat of the Club.  However, in common with the Economic Development forum, numbers dropped to a point where a mutual decision to close the Club was made in 2010.

"Revitalise Your Business” Brand

6.             In 2002 and 2003 the Business Support Team ran consecutive business support events.  This was managed via the Vale of Glamorgan Business Forum which included organisations such as the then Welsh Development Agency (WDA), the Business Support Team, Education Learning Wales (ELWA), Barry College, the Council and Job Centre Plus.  Each organisation put a sum of money into a central fund which financed these events.  Both events were very successful offering seminars, exhibitions and guest speakers such as Professor Dylan Jones Evans and Ieuan Evans MBE.  The events were well attended by the business public and demonstrated a keen need for business support under one roof.

7.             These events did not begin again until 2009 when the Revitalise Your Business (RYB) brand was born.  On a smaller scale, as the event was solely funded by the Council, an event was run at the Memorial Hall in Barry.  In 2010, the event was run again at the Bear Hotel in Cowbridge.  However, this event proved less successful than the three previous events, partly due to the economic downturn.

8.             In addition, to the above, the Council currently administers the following initiatives that seek to support businesses through engagement and networking:

Leader’s Business Event at Dyffryn

9.             The Council's extensive business contacts were used to form the invite list for the Leader’s annual summer business event held in June to ensure that local SME’s and tenants of the Vale Council’s commercial properties were represented.

10.        The event enables private and public sector representatives to network with key stakeholders in the Vale to conduct business and discuss key projects ongoing in the area.  The Council received encouraging feedback from attendees who made useful contacts on the night.

South WalesBusiness Awards

11.        For the last three years the Council has supported the Vale based Business Awards at the Bear Hotel in Cowbridge. This has not only involved sponsoring the Retail Business of the year award and Business Start Up, but has included Council officers in the judging of the awards themselves, financially appraising the shortlisted nominees and providing resources to manage the event on the night. The Council has also been able to assist in securing high profile guests such as William MacNamara OBE of Oakwood Park and Bluestone who was the recipient of this year’s Contribution to Business Award.   In terms of benefits especially for Vale businesses, this is now considered to be relatively poor value for money and it is not intended to continue this arrangement.

Business Breakfast at the Vale Agricultural Show

12.        Held annually, the opportunity has been taken to host a Business Breakfast event at the Council's marquee at the Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural show, with guest speakers on a range of topics, including, at the 2011 show, a presentation by Elfed Roberts on the National Eisteddfod 2012.

Retailers’ Forum

13.        Set up in 2010, the Council organises and co-ordinates the Vale Retailers’ Forum chaired by the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration. It has been established to ensure a co-ordinated approach to town centre management across the four principal towns. The Forum meets on a quarterly basis with key retailers and Chamber of Trade representatives and allows for discussion on key issues relevant to each town centre.

Environment & Economy – Annual Extraordinary Scrutiny Meetings

14.        Since 2009, an annual economic forum has been held under the umbrella of the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee with local representatives of business and organisations invited to attend and contribute to the debate.  

Annual Built in Quality Awards

15.        Held annually for the last 10 years, this awards evening celebrates the best in new construction in the Vale of Glamorgan with awards across many categories.  The awards are sponsored by local and national companies and are always well attended.  The winners go on to represent the Vale of Glamorgan at the regional level with regional winners being considered for Wales wide awards.

South WalesChamber of Commerce

16.        Since 2009, the Council has been a member of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce which offers the Council and its associates key benefits such as favourable insurance rates including private health care schemes.  It also offers access to its entire membership of businesses through their seminars and conferences.  This enables the Council to maintain a strong liaison with local businesses and keep in touch with the current needs and aspirations of local SMEs.

17.        Whilst considering the future of business liaison in the Vale of Glamorgan, the following activities are some of the projects the business support team is currently working on in order to refresh the way in which the Council interacts with local SMEs.

'Linkedin'

18.        In order to revitalise the Council's liaison with businesses in the Vale, the idea to embrace social media has been promoted. In particular, the website 'Linkedin' has provided the Council with the opportunity to set up a virtual Vale of Glamorgan Business Forum to start discussions on topical and current business initiatives. The potential exists to establish a Vale Business User group through 'Linkedin' or indeed through the Council's own e-mail system, and this is an option considered in more detail below. 

Business Seminars

19.        Recent business seminars held at the BSC and promoted by the Council include:

·               Supplier Development - 'successful tendering'

·               Start your own business taster session

·               Start your own business – three day workshop

·               Innovation network partnership south east Wales (a Glamorgan University and 'Venture Wales' WG programme)

Marketing workshops

20.        At the end of November, the Council co-ordinated and promoted a seminar at the Memorial Hall, Barry, run in conjunction with the National Eisteddfod. The purpose of the seminar was to highlight the potential tendering opportunities open to Vale based businesses in the run up and during the 2012 Eisteddfod at Llandow.

Partnership Working

21.        In the interests of partnership working regular contact is made with Bridgend Council’s Economic Development unit.  This year the Council co-hosted a St David’s day business breakfast at the Coed Y Mwstwr Hotel as a pilot to assess whether there was potential to collaborate more formally with Bridgend CBC on the holding of a joint Vale and Bridgend Business Club.  This is addressed more fully below.

Relevant Issues and Options

22.        In terms of moving forward, it is clear that certain initiatives have been more successful than others and in moving forward it is appropriate that the success of previous initiatives, as well as current initiatives are considered when devising an approach for liaising with the Business community.

23.        In this regard, it is clear that with the advances made in information technology and with time becoming an increasingly valuable commodity the use of electronic initiatives to keep in contact and to keep up-to-date with initiatives should not be overlooked.  As a consequence, it is proposed that a business user group be established for the Vale of Glamorgan, possibly on a "linked in" model, either via "linked in " itself or through the Council's own e-mail system or internet site.  As members of the user group, Vale based businesses will benefit from regular information, updates and news and as members, businesses will also be able to register their interest in attending the networking events as being suggested below.

24.        The following current events should be continued, given their recent and ongoing success:

·               The Leader's Business event at Dyffryn Gardens-held during the Summer period.  This has been a successful event in bringing businesses together in a relaxed environment.

·               The Annual Vale of Glamorgan Show Business Breakfast, with relevant guest speakers and topics being a focus for discussion, to take advantage of the holding of an important event in the Vale calendar.

·               The Built in Quality Awards evening, held in January every year to celebrate success in the vale of Glamorgan construction industry.  Although specifically targeted at the building industry, this event is very well attended and offers an opportunity to celebrate successful building projects undertaken in the Vale of Glamorgan.

·               The Annual Extraordinary Economy and Environment Scrutiny Meeting that considers the economic situation and business issues serves as a useful mechanism for sharing experiences and raising issues that are specific to the Vale of Glamorgan, and it is proposed that this arrangement should continue (with support of the Scrutiny Committee)

·               The Retailers’ Forum has also proved successful in dealing with specific town centre issues and should continue

25.        In addition, it is proposed to seek to provide one further networking event, geared specifically at businesses which will supplement the Leaders event at Dyffryn and the annual Vale Show business breakfast.  Given that both these events take place during the summer it is proposed that the third networking event targeted at the entire business sector takes place either to mark St David's Day or during the run up to Christmas.  Given the plethora of events that are already held by individual businesses in the run up to Christmas it is considered that a specific Vale of Glamorgan business event for St David's Day is the preferred and most appropriate option.

26.        In all cases, the use of a internet based Business user group will provide for the advanced notification and marketing of these events and help establish a level of interest for these limited number of events that would not otherwise exist.

27.        The potential collaboration with Bridgend CBC on business networking has been considered and piloted during 2011. .However, given that the Council is committed to holding events at Dyffryn and during the Vale Show in any event, it is considered that the holding of one other specific Vale of Glamorgan event would represent a better use of the limited funding available rather than committing to contributing financially to a range of events that are held through the Bridgend Business Club that are held on a very regular and frequent basis. In this regard, it is important to acknowledge that the Vale Council is one of five of the twenty-two local authorities in Wales classed as a non-priority business support area commonly known as a Competitiveness Region. In terms of the Welsh Government's (WG) business support initiatives, the Competitiveness Areas have historically attracted significantly less funding and support compared to the seventeen priority Authorities in Wales. As a result, the Council's business support initiatives are delivered against two adjoining authorities, Bridgend and RCT, which have comparatively and significantly more resources available to support businesses in their areas, and as a result more resources to establish and administer business Clubs with a very full programme of business events.  In this regard, Members will note that the Vale of Glamorgan has an economic development Unit of three full time staff, which is considerably less than the staff resources available in priority areas.  Engaging in a full collaboration with Bridgend on business networking with the resultant sharing of officer costs, administration and event costs would not therefore be financially within reach and experience from the pilot undertaken indicates that the level of interest from Vale based businesses could not be sustained, in any event.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

28.        All proposals in this report can be funded from within existing revenue budgets.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

29.        None specific to this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

30.        None specific to this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

31.        None specific to this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

32.        To provide opportunities and incentives to attract businesses to invest in the Vale and good quality support for local businesses.

Policy Framework and Budget

33.        This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

34.        As this does not relate to specific wards, no ward member consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

35.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

None applicable

 

Contact Officer

Rob Thomas, Head of Planning and Transportation - Tel: 01446 704621

 

Officers Consulted

Legal - Committee Reports

Finance, ICT and Property - Finance

Finance, ICT and Property - Estates Officer

Operational Manager - Countryside and Economic Projects

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick - Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

 

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