Norfolk: 5 Year Growth Plan

Norfolk County Council's been announcing in a new five-year strategy for growth today.

The draft strategy, Delivering Economic Growth in Norfolk, is being considered by the council's Environment, Transport and Development Overview and Scrutiny Panel before going on to Cabinet for approval. It brings together a range of new and existing initiatives with the aim of:

- Supporting economic growth and removing infrastructure constraints

- Boosting business startups

- Improving business perceptions of Norfolk and securing inward investment

- Enhancing skills and employability in the workforce

- Ensuring that local firms can compete for public sector contracts.

The growth strategy is a result County Council Leader Derrick Murphy's pledge last year (2011) that Norfolk County Council would do everything in its power to support economic growth and prosperity in Norfolk. The strategy aims to complement the work of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as well as providing focus for the council's own initiatives.

"It's up to Norfolk County Council to bang the drum for our county, speaking up for Norfolk with a clear focus on the county's priorities for economic growth. We will build on the World Class Norfolk campaign, keep pressing for crucial infrastructure improvements, and ensure that the workforce has the skills needed in the 21st century," he said.

"This really is an exciting strategy because even at this stage it is being supported by firm proposals. We have already announced £4.5m in support for apprenticeships in established companies, but we also want to encourage people to start up new businesses.

Over the next two years we will be targeting £400,000 in economic development funds towards a much larger business startup programme, building on the success of the Norfolk Outset scheme.

In the longer term, we need more investment in infrastructure to unlock the potential of our county. Norwich Northern Distributor Road is crucial for a large part of north Norfolk, as well as businesses in the north and east fringes of Norwich, but we also want to see more priority given to the A47 as a route between the Midlands and Great Yarmouth, where a third river crossing remains the highest priority."

Ann Steward, Cabinet member for Economic Development, said: "We know how much potential there is in Norfolk - the offshore energy industries for example - and this draft strategy sets out to remove barriers to growth, encourage homegrown enterprise and inward investment, and equip the Norfolk workforce for the new job opportunities that this will bring. Our £4.5m investment in apprenticeships shows how this strategy is already being turned into action.

I am also confident that Norfolk has many innovators and entrepreneurs who just need the right opportunities to turn ideas and enterprise into businesses and jobs. The success of the Hethel Engineering Centre, which has incubated over 55 businesses and created 190 high skill jobs, shows what can be achieved if the right support and encouragement is there."

The growth strategy's priority areas each include a number of key proposals
To remove infrastructure constraints:

~ Better broadband to support the two-thirds of Norfolk companies located in rural areas. The Better Broadband for Norfolk project is seeking superfast broadband county-wide.

~ Norwich NDR, an improved and higher status A47 and a third river crossing for Great Yarmouth.

~ Better rail links to London and Cambridge.

To help businesses start up and grow:

~ £400,000 over two years to expand the startup programme

~ Provide grow-on space at Hethel at an Advanced Manufacturing Centre, and new startups through Hethel Innovation Ltd.

~ Work with New Anglia and district councils to establish seven market town enterprise hubs for rural business startup

~ Web portal to online business support.

To improve business perceptions of Norfolk and secure inward investment:

~ Build on the World Class Norfolk campaign

~ Invest up to £100,000 in working with UK Trade and Investment and strengthen Norfolk businesses local supply chains.

~ Accelerate growth of higher value areas of the economy, such as financial, engineering, energy and renewables

To improve skills and employability:

~ The County Council's apprenticeship programme

~ Graduate work experience placements with the council and others

~ Work with partners through the Norfolk Employment Skills Board.

Fair access to public sector contracts:

~ Simplified processes, a single contracts website, reduced insurance requirements, meet the buyer events.

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