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Business leaders debate plans to turn Essex into UK's fastest growing regional economy

2 March 2017

Business leaders, academics and economists met today to discuss how to turn Essex into the UK’s fastest growing economy outside of London.

The high-profile meeting at County Hall, Chelmsford, comes after an independent report by the Essex Economic Commission revealed the county can inspire a post-Brexit renaissance of Britain’s regional economies, if key economic issues are addressed.

The unique research aims to provide independent advice to support decision-making and help realise Essex County Council’s ambition to double the economy to £60 billion by 2025, a pledge in the authority’s budget a fortnight ago.
It highlighted that:
  • Essex is the 8th biggest economy in the UK and the 4th of 13 counties in the South East and East Anglia.
  • More start-ups survive and thrive here than the UK average. 50,000 new companies launched since 2009 and 43 per cent have survived after five years of trading. Greater Essex had an average of 235 start-ups for each £1bn of GVA between 2009 and 2014, well ahead of the UK average of 175 and above other counties in the region and major metropolitan areas.
  • The county’s proximity to London, Cambridge and Stansted, international connectivity through airports and sea ports, plus cheaper rents and wages are a strong pulling point for UK and foreign investors.

But the EEC, a panel of 12 experts chaired by renowned economist Dr Andrew Sentance CBE, also highlighted several key challenges that must be addressed, including specific skills shortages, improving transport infrastructure and a lack of suitable workspaces.

Mr Sentance said: "The Essex economy has great potential - it is close to London, with a high degree of entrepreneurial spirit and a strong track record in terms of business start-ups. We now need to create the conditions in which these smaller businesses can grow and develop - by providing the transport infrastructure, the skills base and business premises which can allow them to expand."