One of the things I’m really keen to do over the next few months is get around Knowsley talking to as many of the local businesses here as I can.
I want to get a good feel for what it’s like doing business out there, what’s working well in the borough, what could be better and make sure that the council is as supportive as possible of local businesses – whether large or small.
Enhancing the council’s role as an ‘enabler’ of local business is something I’ve spoken to my Cabinet about, and they’re all very supportive of the idea that we need to do what we can to help grow our local businesses. In the last financial year we directly invested £79,000 in local businesses and worked with 80 companies as they invested a total of £344m into the borough. That helped create more than 2,300 jobs and safeguard a further 300. We’ve now committed a further £4m to boost jobs, business and growth in the borough and I’m hopeful that this will have an enormous impact on the local economy and employment prospects.
A few weeks ago, I visited Halewood International, a major employer here in Knowsley, and was given a tour of their operations. I must say I found it absolutely fascinating – the processes involved and the innovative technology they have there.
It seems that Halewood International have a very positive attitude towards employing apprentices and investing in their staff. They explained that as their business changed they realised they needed a workforce with a different set of skills – so they trained their existing staff up and are now reaping the rewards. It was good to be able to speak to a number of their young employees – some of whom started as apprentices – and I must say they painted a picture of a very good company to work for where they feel valued and invested in. Joe Anderson joined me on the tour and I know both he and I are keen to see many more examples like this in the City Region.
Last week I also attended an event at the Venue in Huyton called “Knowsley: The Place to Do Business” which aimed to promote Knowsley as a business location – and to let local businesses and entrepreneurs know what support the council can offer them. As a business-friendly borough, the council is willing and able to offer all kinds of help and advice to local businesses – everything from helping them find a suitable premises within Knowsley, how to access funding or help recruiting local staff to offering advice on planning, licensing and other general business issues. This approach is something I’m keen to enhance.
I spoke to a number of local business people at the event, including Richard Sutton, director and founder of Poco Coffee, who now have branches in both Prescot and Kirkby as well as John Tierney and Paul Higgins from Tuff X Processed Glass Ltd, who are currently investing in new machinery at their premises on Knowsley Business Park. It was great to hear first-hand what they think of the services we provide to businesses and what else would benefit them.
As I go round meeting more businesses in the next few weeks and months I’ll be hoping to gather more feedback like this – and you can expect to hear from me on this blog about what I uncover!
The council recently invested £6.7m into road an infrastructure improvements at Knowsley Business Park, as a direct result of feedback from business. We have allocated money from our reserves for more projects like this, where we believe that it will add real value to local business and help drive the local economy, creating jobs for local people. I’ll be looking out for those types of opportunities on my travels. So, as they say: ‘watch this space’…