There have been political discussions lately about Cardiff, Newport and Bristol ‘clubbing together’ to form a regional economic powerhouse – the so called Western Cities. The region certainly needs a boost and this is possibly one vehicle for providing an engine for business growth in south Wales.
Here are some recently published opinions of business leaders in South Wales talking about regional growth and expansion:
Kevin Beevers, commercial lending director, Julian Hodge Bank
We have a really good base to start from. Compared to other provincial cities, Cardiff has the government infrastructure, Welsh Assembly and all that flows from that; world-class sporting facilities; and world-class entertainment facilities. We could augment that with better planning processes, and marketing what we have to bring in inward investment.
There is an opportunity to attract back office jobs from London, where staff turnover and salaries are higher than in Cardiff.
In some places, tighter regulations are driving students out of typical student houses into purpose-built accommodation, to free up conventional housing stock. Cardiff has high student numbers and a lot accommodated in houses.
Gary Carver, director, Savills
It worries me that Cardiff Council, the Welsh Government and the other councils don’t seem to be working together on attracting investment. There just seems to be lots of people trying to do the same thing. It needs someone to drive it forward.
Improvements to public transport and infrastructure would be useful to help people get to work and move around. If you haven’t got that right, nothing else will work.
Michael Learoyd, head of property, Thomas Carroll
A change of culture here would be a good thing, so that entrepreneurs are not seen as selfish opportunists. Talking to our clients who are developers, it’s almost that if you make a return on land, that raises a suspicion at the planning authority.
David Mitchell, commercial director, Midas Construction
We have offices in Cardiff and Bristol. Bristol is booming. It’s disappointing that we are still wondering when Wales is going to pick up.
We’d like to see the continuation of the more visible funding arrangements which we have seen. Cash is key and it’s positive that we get visibility of where the money is coming from and who the funders are. You don’t always get a contractual link back to the funder, but at least you can get visibility and comfort.
John James, director, Fletcher Morgan
Cardiff is a city centre shopping destination. Newport and Swansea have to reposition themselves as sub-regional centres and get more social activity in there. It doesn’t have to be all shops. Even if it’s coffee shops and bars, it gets a bit of life going there. Bridgend too could benefit by a boost to both its shopping centre and nearby tourist attractions such as Porthcawl which is a great location for weddings .
There may be an opportunity with people coming out of south east England. We need some big employers down here, then things will spin off. And we need to have some big projects in Wales. Central government and the Welsh Government have to get together and get some really big projects.
Something like the Severn Barrage would be fantastic for Wales. It would create construction jobs, and we wouldn’t be reliant any more on a (Severn) tunnel built by Brunel and two bridges.