Creating a place for enterprise
A successful economy is at the core of any town that lays claim to being thriving and vibrant. That’s why economic vitality – offering a range of opportunities for its people and the right type of growth – sits at the heart of the vision for Shrewsbury.
Thriving economies are built on thriving businesses, and the task ahead for Shrewsbury is to create the right conditions - a managed ecology - that supports its future prosperity for the decades ahead. This means fit-for-purpose business space and supporting infrastructure, as well as access to a workforce – people – with the right skills and talent.
THE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE OF SPACE
Skilled people are attracted – and retained – by access to good, well paid jobs and a varied cocktail of other opportunities. The needs and aspirations of people differ depending on an individual’s life stage, but, for all ages, a good quality of life and good places to live are high on the list.
Over the recent years, there has been a growing – and shifting – emphasis on ‘quality of life’ as part of a town’s economic health. This has been accelerated by the rise of creative industries and the knowledge economy, which has workforce that is challenging traditional working patterns.
This sectoral shift is placing different demands on not just skills need but the type building stock and work styles. The design of office space has changed heralding more relaxed environments, through to to co-working spaces and even moving outside the natural work place. In fact, public space, local amenities and the café culture are increasingly as important as the actual jobs, and part of the arsenal in the ‘war for talent’. This is leading to employers increasingly valuing locations that offer their current and potential staff a good working environment, extending beyond the actual workplace into our public realm. Convivial spaces and walkable and cycle-able streets, cafes and social spaces, interesting things to do, are increasingly essential elements of successful commercial clusters.
Twenty first century businesses also need access to quality, robust infrastructure – from good transport links, to high speed broadband, access to market. And as importantly, they need a supportive public sector that works with its business base to ensure that the town, its population, and its wealth creators, have the best chances to succeed.
Challenges and opportunities
Shrewsbury has a relatively low wage, low productivity, economy that is seen as a significant impediment to growth. So changing the economic mix is crucial – both to individuals’ livelihoods and quality of life – as well as longer-term successful growth.
The town’s future business success and labour market is partly ‘chicken and egg’; the town needs the right jobs to attract people with the necessary skills, but quality, sustainable jobs are often a product of a good labour supply and higher productivity.
Currently some 13,000 people travel outside the town and surrounding districts to work in other towns and cities, such as Birmingham, which offers a considerably great employment choice and higher wages. The opening of the University Centre Shrewsbury is a great boost to the whole area, in numerous ways, and its student population will undoubtedly create a fresh dynamic in the town centre, its graduates a potential supply of skilled workers.
It is for this reason that Shrewsbury’s economic future is so inter-linked with how the town evolves to create the homes, services, amenities – and wider offer – for a multi-generational population, encouraging younger people to stay or relocate to the town, making a life here.
This is particularly important since, as with the rest of Shropshire, Shrewsbury’s proportion of older people is increasing, while there has been a marked decrease in the number of people aged between 30 and 44. Yet demographic shifts mean older people are remaining economically active for much longer, as well as bringing other benefits and opportunities. So, it’s important to work towards an economy that offers employment across the spectrum of ages, abilities and qualifications – and different scale businesses.
The town is recognised as a strong base for independent businesses, attracting entrepreneurs, and this should be celebrated, and built on. Similarly, the town is well known for its quirky independent shops, although it would also benefit from an increased mainstream offer. So effort is needed to attract the right retail and ensure that the independent and high street offer works in harmony.
It’s felt that Shrewsbury is well placed to attract more jobs in the fast growing knowledge and information economy. In order to do so, it is vital to create the conditions that match the sector’s needs in infrastructure and business space, with new work styles and a heavy reliance on IT. A convivial public realm and café culture is as much a part of location attractiveness for staff, as much as good transport links and access to high speed broadband and public wi-fi.
The town’s heritage building stock lends itself to the type of business space that is increasingly popular – bespoke places that have character. Property owners and planning and economic development teams are encouraged to work in partnership to bring forward opportunities for the adaption of space, supported by the other key ingredient – a robust telecoms infrastructure.
Reshaping Shrewsbury’s offer – from skills to the physical workspace – must go hand in glove with a targeted approach to both attracting and retaining businesses; existing as well as new. A refreshed and co-ordinated inward investment campaign, underpinned by a package of measures that matches and promotes its offer to target sectors, is an essential ingredient in the town’s continued success.
Nurturing enterprise to be a town of sustained success and of innovation and entrepreneurship;
The town’s physical form and infrastructure will support its economic and urban quality vision, with quality, fit for purpose business space and development opportunities, relevant to current trends and business aspirations;
The adaptive re-use of building stock, including heritage buildings, to create flexible co-working and bespoke workspace;
A retail environment - in the widest sense - that attracts high quality anchor retailers, augmenting the independent offer;
A town that has a positive business offer for existing and potential investors and businesses; with a proactive campaign for attracting and retaining inward investment;
An economy that maximises Shrewsbury and Shropshire’s tourism offer and opportunities;
A place that attracts and grows the right skills, matched to business needs and ambition for higher paid jobs and younger workforce;
A successful economy that builds on, and leverages, its aspirations as a sustainable town.
To achieve this, we will
Plan for enterprise and define, and nurture, key economic sectors
From tourism, environmental consultancy, advanced manufacturing, digital technology and creative industries and food technology. This in part means ensuring the Shropshire Economic Growth Strategy 2017-21 (and its successors in the longer term) concentrates on the need to drive focused sectoral growth within Shrewsbury and throughout the county. This will link education and training, the physical conditions, and spatial and digital plans with its economic prospects. We will target better paying jobs, as well as more affordable housing in order to attract and retain professionals.
Create an inward investment and business retention plan
At the heart of the enterprise plan will be proactively targeting new businesses, in key sectors, as well as retaining – and growing – both incoming and existing business.
Lay down the infrastructure, business and creative space to support growth
Link the economic and urban quality vision to infrastructure and master plans to open up opportunities and change, as well as resilience, in the face of sectoral shift. Encourage new commercial space, which meets the needs of the new economy through adaptation and re-use of the town’s heritage buildings, and empty spaces, inter-linked with its public and green spaces and arts, culture and hotels offer. Establish an inventory of business space and sites that can be developed to provide new commercial space. Work with utilities and others to ensure the robust broadband infrastructure is in place.
Meet the future skills needs with a linked education and training plan
Linked to enterprise is the need for more targeted skills, so there is a need to develop a training and skills strategy that covers all ages, encouraging life-long learning as well as targeting younger adults. Marry this to economic opportunities or direct needs to grow the local economy, and other measures such as promoting the great state schools, alongside the private provision, to help bring in and retain families; work closely with the university to truly exploit this opportunity, from utilising the facilities, to understanding and meeting the skills needs of local and regional businesses, creating courses responsive to skills needs and the economic vision.
Support the town’s entrepreneurial spirit and independent culture
Provide a supportive environment and platforms to encourage new entrants and expanding business, by understanding opportunities and developing initiatives for business growth, with easy entry and operating environment. Develop a range of services for start-ups and micro-businesses – from access to grants, marketing and business advice and mentoring schemes as well as easy access, affordable business space. Support business training for students, and encouraging entrepreneurship.