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Responding to the current economic climate - Manage now and Invest for the Future

29 January 2009

More than 3,200 business 'Health Checks' – most of them in small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – have been undertaken by Business Link in the South East since October last year, delegates heard at the SEEDA Regional Economic Strategy Partners’ Conference in Guildford, Surrey today.

The conference gave delegates the opportunity to understand the full scale of support the government and publicly funded agencies provide in these challenging times and to work together to identify:

  • New ideas and proposals on how to best support businesses and communities through the downturn.
  • New opportunities for effective public investment that would help to fuel an economic upturn.
  • New initiatives and cooperation between regional stakeholders, both public and private, to help to continue deliver the objectives of the RES for the benefit of the economy and people of the South East.

SEEDA Chairman Jim Brathwaite took the opportunity to highlight a number of initiatives currently investing in the future whilst also helping companies in the short term:

"These are very trying times for our businesses. Today is an opportunity to discuss how we can help our economy through the recession – both by managing the here and now and by investing for the future. The Regional Economic Strategy guides our response to current challenges, ensuring we achieve long term sustainable prosperity for everybody in the South East.

"A key element of managing the here and now is to provide practical help and advice to our companies. Uptake of the free ‘Health Check’ for businesses in the South East has been great. Between October 2008 and now Business Link has undertaken more than 3,200 Health Checks – most of them in SMEs.

"Helping businesses to access finance is essential to support viable and growing companies; encouraging investment and helping businesses to trade overseas as well as attracting inward investment will help the South East to ride out the downturn and maintain our global competitiveness – one of the key objectives of the RES."

Jonathan Shaw MP, Regional Minister for the South East said:

"Most, if not all, of the RES priorities still remain important, so we must not lose sight of them amid the current economic crisis. It is essential in this time of economic uncertainty that we reflect on our long term strengths and seek to put in place the conditions for future success.

"We need to work together strategically to make sure that we know what skills our businesses are looking for, we help ensure people can get the skills they need to take up jobs, we identify future opportunities in new sectors such as green jobs, and we help people to set up their own business. This will provide a good foundation for the future."

Additional information

The Conference was introduced and facilitated by Bob Sherwood, London and South East Correspondent, Financial Times and the current economic context set by William Thomson, Director Global Markets, Experian. The keynote address to the conference was made by Jonathan Shaw MP, Regional Minister for the South East and Paul Lovejoy, SEEDA Executive Director, Strategy & Communications, presented SEEDA’s view of how the South East could best respond to the economic challenge.

The voices of South East Businesses were heard in a plenary debate with a panel of business leaders from the region including Mike Galvin, Chairman of BT’s SE Board & MD of BT's 21st Century Network; Chris Bichard, MD, South East Coachworks; Megan Dobney, Regional Secretary, South East Regional TUC and Rob Sauven, MD of Vestas

A series of round table workshops to develop practical ideas that private and public sector could take forward together to manage the present and invest for the future followed presentations on economic development by Pam Alexander, SEEDAs Chief Executive, housing by Cllr Elizabeth Cartwright, Chair, Regional Housing Board; transport by Cllr Nick Skellett CBE, Chair, Regional Transport and skills by Marinos Paphitis, Regional Director, LSC.

The workshop topics included Employment, Skills and Redundancy Support, Access to Finance, International Competitiveness and Business Support, Social Economy, Skills for the Future, Environmental & Health Technologies, Housing and Infrastructure and International Investment & Innovation.

All participants are available for interview. For Jonathan Shaw, please contact:

Mark Fenwick, COI
Tel: 0207 261 8541 / 07990 795 557.

For all others please use the contacts below.

For SEEDA media enquiries, please contact:

Roy Sutherwood
Tel: 01483 470 155

Heather Bolton
Tel: 01483 501398

For more information please contact our press office

Tel: 01483 470155