A new forum shares ideas on driving business along the M3 corridor

Andover Advertiser: Geoff French, chairman of Enterprise M3 Geoff French, chairman of Enterprise M3

A NEW club for business people along the M3 corridor met for the first time on Monday to share concerns and ideas for driving prosperity in the region, with board members from Enterprise M3, the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

The event – the first in a series of structured senior business forums – was hosted by AXA Wealth, in Basingstoke, and it was designed to bring together a select group of some of the most influential business people in the region to debate and agree how to take forward some of the most important issues facing the largest employers.

Geoff French, chairman of Enterprise M3, spoke about the government’s recent endorsement of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the Autumn Statement, with an additional £500,000 of funding from next year plus a single funding pot for local areas to implement the Enterprise M3 strategy from 2015.

The additional funding will support and improve local transport, infrastructure, skills and enterprise.

Paul Riddell, head of strategic communications, AXA Wealth, spoke of the need for “big business to make sure their voice is heard” and leaders from Motorola, URS, Bam Nuttall and Southampton Airport joined others to voice their concerns.

General views were that infrastructure is not keeping up with the demands of business, with the group agreeing the need to improve connectivity – roads, trains and broadband.

Business leaders also spoke of wanting to engage with councils and of developing a shared understanding of the things that mattered.

Graeme Hobbs, chairman, Motorola Solutions UK Ltd, said: “The single most important issue for big business was Heathrow – without it, business would suffer. The reason to stay in the area diminishes.”

The importance of skills was high on the list, with concerns voiced that sectors such as engineering are not an attractive career option for students.

Tim Colman, Enterprise M3 board member and chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Federation of Small Businesses, spoke of the work being taken forward by Enterprise M3 to develop a planning charter for business and the importance of council staff knowing the needs of business.

Geoff French explained how Enterprise M3 would be incorporating business views into their strategy for growth with the first thoughts going on the website in December.

He said: “My aim is to ensure that all businesses great and small are represented at Enterprise M3.

“Our region has the ability, the talent, the commitment and the infrastructure to prosper over coming years.

“My message to big business is ‘get involved’. Enterprise M3 is here to stay with both the Coalition and the Labour Party saying local enterprise partnerships will be retained whatever the outcome of the next election.”

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