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Driving prosperity along the M3 corridor: the role of big business - New Enterprise M3 Big Business Club hosted by AXA Wealth

11 December 2012: A new club for business people along the M3 corridor met for the first time on Monday to share concerns and ideas for driving prosperity in the region with board members from Enterprise M3, the region's Local Enterprise Partnership.

The event - the first in a series of structured senior business forums - was hosted by AXA Wealth and was designed to bring together a select group of the most influential business people in the region to debate and agree how to take forward some of the most important issues facing the largest employers. 

Geoff French, chairman, Enterprise M3, spoke of government’s recent endorsement of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the Autumn Statement, with an additional £500k of funding from next year plus a single funding pot for local areas to implement the Enterprise M3 strategy from 2015. The additional funding will support and improve local transport, infrastructure, skills and enterprise. 

Paul Riddell, head of strategic communications, AXA Wealth, spoke of the need for “big business to make sure their voice is heard” and leaders from Motorola, URS, Bam Nuttall and Southampton Airport joined others to voice their concerns. 

General views were that infrastructure is not keeping up with the demands of business, with the group agreeing the need to improve connectivity – roads, trains and broadband. Business also spoke of wanting to engage with councils and of developing a shared understanding of the things that mattered.

Individual comments included:

  • Graeme Hobbs, chairman, Motorola Solutions UK Ltd, said: “The single most important issue for big business was Heathrow – without it business would suffer. The reason to stay in the area diminishes.”

  • The importance of skills was high on the list with a worry that sectors such as engineering were not an attractive career option for students. 

  • Tim Colman, Enterprise M3 board member, spoke of the work being taken forward by Enterprise M3 to develop a planning charter for business and the importance of council staff understanding the needs of business. 

  • Dane Pearson from Bamm Nuttall spoke of the need “to join things up and bring together the funding silos - so much more could be achieved.” 

  • Nick Elphick from AXA Wealth said: “Business has a choice as to whether they stay or go – small things can make all the difference.”

Geoff French explained how Enterprise M3 would be incorporating business views into their strategy for growth with the first thoughts going on the website in December for consultation. He said: "My aim is to ensure that all businesses great and small are represented at Enterprise M3. Our region has the ability, the talent, the commitment and the infrastructure to prosper over coming years. It provides a hotbed for innovation, with centres such as The McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, with almost all industries represented in the region, from financial services, the digital economy, aerospace, space and pharmaceuticals.

"Positioned as a strategic body, Enterprise M3 has also established the Growing Enterprise Fund, which has distributed £15mn to support projects such as the Sheerwater Access Road, Woking, Tannery Studios, Guildford, Activation Aldershot and rural super and ultra-fast broadband across the area. Further projects under consideration include: Basing View, Basingstoke and Long Cross, Chertsey. My message to big business is 'get involved'. Enterprise M3 is here to stay with both the coalition and the Labour Party saying local enterprise partnerships will be retained whatever the outcome of the next election."

The Big Business Club will meet three times a year with the next event focussing on aviation issues for big business. If you would like to be involved please contact Geoff French, Chair of Enterprise M3, at



Alex Williams, Hivemind Communications (press contact for Enterprise M3), 07976 703768

Paul Riddell, AXA Wealth press office, +44 (0)1256 798442

Editor’s note

Enterprise M3

Enterprise M3 is the Local Enterprise Partnership for an area which covers the New Forest through Hampshire up to the M25 including major centres such as Aldershot, Winchester, Basingstoke, Woking and Guildford, an area which encompasses over 1,600,000 residents and 86,000 businesses; accounting for nearly 20% of the South East’s economic prosperity.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are business–led and work with other public sector organisations such as local authorities, in partnership, across natural economic areas. They provide the vision, knowledge and strategic leadership needed to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area. 

Enterprise M3 drives prosperity in the M3 Corridor and champions the needs of businesses, actively listening to and engaging with them. Enterprise M3 recognises the importance of the environment and the quality of life for those who live and work in the area. 

Enterprise M3 can be contacted via by emailing

AXA Wealth

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AXA UK is a part of the AXA Group. The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 163,000 employees serving 101 million clients in 57 countries. In 2011, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 86.1 billion and IFRS Underlying Earnings to Euro 3.9 billion. AXA had Euro 1,065 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2011.

In the UK AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth; AXA Commercial Lines, AXA Personal Lines, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 12,000 staff in the UK.

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