The Wisbech economy:Keep your feet on the ground and aim high

I really enjoyed working with Dr Gemma Burgess from Cambridge University on her team’s commissioned report about the potential for economic growth in and around Wisbech. This was needed as part of the Wisbech 2020 initiative, to improve the long term economic and social future of the town.

 

During the initial phases of the project there were discussions with partners on which areas of the economy we should focus on.  There were advocates for seeking to grow the clean-technology / renewable energy sectors as well as an understandable desire to make the best of the town centre.

 

In reality though there is very little chance of securing the large investments required to grow the renewable energy sector in Wisbech to such an extent that there would be noticeable improvement in well-being in the area.  In addition, I’m personally of the opinion, that whilst there is short-term goals that can be achieved in terms of environmental improvement for the town centre, a diverse and thriving retail environment will only follow-on from sustained economic growth in other parts of the economy.  We need people in the area to have more money in their pockets.

 

What the Cambridge University report does point to is building on the areas strengths in both agriculture and food manufacturing.  Within a growing UK economy “with a high value oriented growth strategy, by 2030 the combined GVA of the agri-food sector could be £139 million.”   A high value orientated strategy means shifting from food production / processing (low added value) to becoming the experts in the technologies required by these sectors and leading innovation in crop protection, crop science, food science and so on.

 

To achieve this growth the report points to:

·     Encouraging businesses to aim for the higher value strategy;

·     Making sure those businesses have access to capital investment and public infrastructure required;

·     Achieving a step change in the skills and knowledge of what has hither too been an elementary work force

 

I’ll cover these points in more detail another time making use of the extensive stake holder analysis Gemma and her team completed.  In the meantime I’m encouraging as many people as I can to read the report.