10:18am Monday 30th December 2013
With forecasts for economic growth consistently optimistic although also, crucially, realistic, it is now time to consider taking steps in order to ensure that it has longevity, flexibility and competitiveness as key characteristics.
Locally, this means special attention to transport infrastructure, education and training, and investment in new technologies. It also means identifying and exploiting export markets.
As far as transport infrastructure is concerned, the completion during the spring of the redoubling of the Stroud to Swindon railway line will make a significant difference to capacity and performance.
Road improvements are next on the agenda with the A417/A419 route – especially the Air Balloon roundabout being priority. Local roads, too, are scheduled for surface improvement.
Still more needs to be done in the medium-term. Links to the M5 for Dursley and Cam combined with road improvements in the Berkeley/Sharpness area could be drivers for further economic growth.
Improving links with places beyond the Valleys and Vale is necessary as supply chains become more complex.
The second successful Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering highlighted the strength of this sector to the local economy and its continued success is one reason for the regular monthly falls in unemployment.
However, it remains fundamentally important to encourage more young people to think of being an engineer as a career.
The demand for specialist skills is continually rising so our education establishments must play their part in supplying people with those skills.
The Festival (Festomane) will take place again next autumn but an additional event will be also organised for the Dursley/Cam/Berkeley area as economic indicators suggest a need for a focus on engineering in these communities.
Already, there are opportunities emerging in several sectors including energy where renewables, extraction methods and distribution systems are all seeing technical advances.
New technologies are being developed every day. Materials, electronics and aviation are just some of the areas where investment in research and development is paying dividends.
Our nearby universities are contributing to cutting edge discoveries but we also need to encourage more investment locally to put great ideas into practice.
We can be ambitious about our economic future.
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