Archive for April, 2011

Guest blog: Modern enterprise and Saxon gold

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Catherine Raines is this week’s guest blogger while Nick Bell is on leave.

Catherine RainesYou may have seen on the news this week that a major UK company is looking to move to the i54 site in South Staffordshire.  i54 is a tremendous location for business: it stands at the heart of the UK transport network; the West Midlands is renowned for its engineering expertise; there is a massively motivated workforce; and there is a higher education and university sector that is plugged into delivering the technological skills and training that modern enterprise needs to grow and prosper.  The site has already proved a great hit with the technology sector, with Moog and Eurofins Scientific having already announced their plans to invest.  The fact that there is so much interest in i54 is a huge boost for Staffordshire – i54 is the natural home for the world’s top technological enterprises.

On the topic of enterprise, I also wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate two Staffordshire businesses that have been awarded the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for 2011: Addmaster (UK) and JCB Excavators Ltd.  Portmeirion Group Plc from Stoke also received the award. 

Both of these things are really good news. We will only achieve our vision of a prosperous Staffordshire by working with local businesses, supporting their growth and by encouraging new businesses to the county.

Finally, I’m especially pleased to be asked to guest blog this week because it gives me a chance to remind you that the Staffordshire Hoard will be on tour this summer.  From 2 July to 24 July it will be on display at the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford.  From there it will go to Lichfield Cathedral (30 July to 21 August) and Tamworth Castle (27 August to 18 September).  It will be free to enter but you will need a timed ticket to enter, so find out more on the website.  Look out for news of a special preview evening for County Council employees which we will be announcing very soon.

Working for a prosperous Staffordshire

Monday, April 18th, 2011

One of our key priorities as a county council is to ensure that Staffordshire’s economy prospers and grows, together with the jobs, skills, qualifications and aspirations to support it.   It’s a big ambition but we know that if the county is prosperous all our residents will benefit.

So it’s good news that this week the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced that two Regional Growth Fund bids in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership area have been successful.

The bids were for a world leading research and development centre at Alstom in Stafford, formally supported by the LEP, and regeneration of Middleport Pottery in Burslem, led by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust.  We believe that these bids will bring new jobs and put Staffordshire on the map globally in terms of attracting further investment.  We want to let companies know that Staffordshire is a great place to do business.

 The LEP is also determined to bring one of the newly announced Enterprise Zones to our area, as this can help bring even more businesses to the area.  We will be submitting an expression of interest to government on this shortly, and hope to be successful when the new Zones are announced later this summer.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.Calf on Shugborough estate

Encouraging visitors to Staffordshire tourist attractions is also a big part of our drive to increase prosperity.  If you have chance then why not visit Shugborough, Cannock Chase, the Shire Hall gallery or any of our other great attractions in Staffordshire over the coming bank holiday weekends when the weather is currently forecast to be settled (don’t forget the staff 2 for 1 offer at Shugborough).  Matthew is nagging me to get to Alton Towers and Drayton Manor Park, so I know where I’ll be for at least 2 of those days!  Whatever you decide to do, have a great Easter break. 

Celebrating success

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

This week I was pleased to present All About You awards to a number of you.  We had 6 winners – 3 individuals and 3 groups.  Among the groups was a team that don’t regularly work together, but formed a project team to organise an event to celebrate volunteering in the county.  This was the culmination of a campaign to increase volunteering.  The group devised an awards scheme and organised a very successful evening event which improved the council’s reputation and consolidated our support for volunteering.

I think it is the first time we have recognised a team that doesn’t all work together full time, and I’m really pleased to celebrate their achievement.

It would be unfair of me not to mention the other well deserved winners.  David Hallam won the Above and Beyond category, Lee Flegg won for his work Behind the Scenes, Julie Staniforth won in the Working in the Community category.  The Technical Services Team in Waste Management won the small team and Brighton House were recognised for their external award.  Well done to everyone – it was a pleasure to meet you and thank you for your hard work.  You can read more about all of their work on the intranet.

Elsewhere I have spent a lot of time this week interviewing for new board members for the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).  The LEP is just part of our plan to increase prosperity in Staffordshire, as it provides a solid local focus for economic regeneration, representing local businesses in pushing for a better business deal for the area.  We’ve seen some excellent candidates and I know we will be able to announce very soon who has been successful.   I’ve also been talent spotting the next generation of business leaders at a celebration event organised by Young Enterprise West Midlands in North Staffordshire.  I was impressed by the young people I met – the economic future of the county is looking bright!

Award winning innovation

Monday, April 4th, 2011

This week I’m delighted to announce that we are the proud winners of a prestigious Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Award!

The awards are given annually by LGC, one of the main magazines for local government, and this year Staffordshire County Council has won the award for Innovation.  The winning entry has recognised our work to send zero waste to landfill.

Our proposal was to develop a hi-tech incinerator to dispose of 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, converting the heat into electricity for the national grid.  The level of investment needed meant that we had to go for a partnership with the private sector, but a quick review of similar projects elsewhere revealed they were not necessarily going well.  We took a different approach, with the county council taking on the initial risk before selecting a contractor and handing over a project ready to hit the ground running.

This innovative way of procurement saved valuable time and money for us and for our partners. By the time the private contractor, Veolia, was selected, there were very few uncertainties that could lead to major delays and cost escalations.  The project received sign-off in less than two years, which was described by Defra as “a phenomenal achievement”. Construction work is now expected to start on site in June 2011, with full operation planned before the end of 2013.

I am particularly pleased that we have been recognised for our innovation.  In Staffordshire more and more we are taking an innovative approach, so it’s great to be able to share this.  Congratulations and I look forward to telling you about more awards soon!