Cornwall is set for a bright and prosperous future, but this is by no means assured and inward investment will be vital.
Now more than ever we need to be selling our county to the world as an excellent place to invest and do business – a place to thrive and prosper economically and socially.
Timing is crucial. Economic uncertainty over Brexit, continued austerity and the loss of EU funds means we need to shape our own future more than ever or risk being perceived as just a place to run micro-businesses or to visit on holiday.
We are in a stronger position than most because of the strength of ‘Brand Cornwall’ and the chamber has been working hard to support local businesses to grow.
But if we aren’t bold, if we don’t compete for investment opportunities with confidence and flair, there are plenty of other regions in the UK, Europe and beyond that will happily snatch those opportunities away.
Cornwall Council has received some criticism lately for attending MIPIM earlier this year, the world’s leading property conference in France, where the authority launched the £600 million Cornwall Investment Fund.
It is ultimately up to residents of Cornwall to decide whether they think this was a good use of taxpayers’ money or not. But I would urge people not to let the negative publicity convince them that pitching for investment in Cornwall isn’t vital to all our futures. Exhibiting at well-renowned business events is part of a strategy to change perceptions about the Duchy.
Part of my role as chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce is to inspire confidence in Cornwall and sell it to business investors across the world. I tell them about the establishment of our space and technology industries and the infrastructure and plans we have in place that will enable them to thrive.
I wax lyrical about Cornwall’s flourishing creative economy, underpinned by the region’s artistic heritage and strengthened by a rapidly growing digital sector and leading superfast connectivity.
And I talk with enthusiasm about Cornwall’s readiness to help transform the UK energy industry through renewables, our emerging agri-tech sector, a tourism industry attracting increasing numbers of international visitors, and the world class research and development facilities in the region.
In short, we have a powerful story to tell investors that Cornwall is the place to do business. But there is fierce competition for their business and they certainly won’t come knocking at our door.
We need to take every opportunity to put Cornwall’s case forward in the right forums. Every meeting, handshake, phone call and presentation adds to our credibility and could sow a seed for a multi-million pound investment in our county, creating jobs and prosperity.
Sometimes it can be easy to lack confidence, fall back on old stereotypes, or be pessimistic about efforts to shape our future.
But now is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Now is the time to look forward to Cornwall’s bright future and do everything we can to make it happen.