Major companies across South Cumbria are pulling together to create the biggest economic development this area has seen in 30 years.
The Furness Economic Development Forum was launched at the tail end of last year from an initiative led by Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock, that saw business giants leap on board this exciting new project.
Over the past 12 months, a core group of representatives from BAE Systems, Barrow Borough Council, Furness Enterprise and Furness College has been developing the strategic Furness Economic Delivery Plan 2014-2017: Sustaining a National Cradle for Advanced Manufacturing.
The project will see a mammoth £20bn investment ploughed into Barrow’s business in the next six to 12 years, which equates to the same level of investment as hosting one and a half Olympic Games.
To drive forward this investment, the business community has put forward a panel of community representatives that are expected to play leading roles in the facilitation of this plan.
The panel consists of Jackie Arnold, head of strategy at BAE, Phil Huck, executive director of Barrow Borough Council, Anne Attwood, principal of Furness College, and Stuart Klosinski, industrial development manager of Furness Enterprise.
In order to harness the investment to benefit the local economy, the panel is endeavouring to provide more opportunities for local businesses to get involved.
Mrs Arnold, who is also chairwoman of the Furness Economic Development Forum, is eager to register the support of other businesses in the area. She said: “The delivery plan is a forward-thinking list of priorities that will require widespread input and buy in from a number of sectors.
“We are looking for support of key groups and commitment in helping to implement the plan. These are exciting times for Furness and it is important that residents and companies in the area are aware of the potential growth and harness the opportunities available wherever possible.”
Phil Collier, chairman of the Furness branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, is calling for small firms to jump on board the scheme.
He said: “I think small businesses need to find out as much as they can about how to get involved and if they have concerns, they need to talk to groups like the FSB or BAE to discuss their concerns.
“I also think that some small businesses don’t necessarily see the opportunities that are around for them and struggle to find a way through all the perceived barriers in cases like this.
“They should be talking to other small businesses or organisations like the FSB and we’re ready and willing to work together to help small businesses obtain those opportunities.”