Sell-out Enterprise M3 annual conference looks to a vibrant future
At the third annual conference of the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership on Thursday 28 February at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey, over 200 delegates from business, local government and the third sector gave their enthusiastic support to the LEP’s strategy for growth as the economy strives to emerge from recession.
Keynote speaker, journalist and presenter of the Sunday Politics show on BBC television, Andrew Neil, pinpointed the challenges ahead while emphasising the need for Enterprise M3 to consolidate on its strengths and work hard to promote the M3 corridor as the best place in the country to live, work and do business.
The conference was hailed by delegates as a great success, with inspiration and much food for thought from a range of speakers. These included Mike Rushworth, managing director of thriving rural business Vitacress Salads, who talked about the need to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology and innovation in order to survive in a highly competitive environment.
As Enterprise M3 LEP supports county councils delivering ultra-fast broadband to rural communities to improve extra-urban communications, facilitate business and help to reduce the need to commute for work, Surrey entrepreneur Penny Power, co-founder of online networking community, Ecademy, pointed out that small to medium businesses are still not making fast enough progress in the implementation of digital skills.
Only a third of SMEs have a digital presence, only 14% sell online and just 1% of them are selling via social networks (while 65% of UK citizens currently use social networks regularly). She emphasised the difference between ‘going social’ and ‘going social business’ – that is, using social networks to connect with customers and build brands. The challenge is to ensure that SMEs benefit from the explosion of digital channels and technology, in order to reduce the cost of doing business, increase markets and export opportunities and create thought-leadership opportunities online. In light of this, Penny Power said it was highly encouraging to see Enterprise M3 working with SMEs who wish to embrace social media and develop their business skills in the digital economy.
In his summary of the day’s events, Geoff French concluded that, as Andrew Neil had observed, the Enterprise M3 area has all the ingredients for success in a very tough economic and political climate. “We now have to get our act together, and particularly in terms of promoting the area. We have so much going for us, with the most resilient economy in the UK, a great quality of life and a highly educated workforce. We now need to address the immediate needs of businesses to ensure that we can provide apprenticeships that help tackle youth unemployment, the housing to attract and retain skilled workers and the infrastructure that enables easy access and keeps the lines of communication well and truly open. As part of our drive to promote this area as the best place in the country to do business, we launched our new video at the conference, to great acclaim. It’s now available on You Tube for everyone to see and broadcast far and wide.”
Click here to listen to a post-event interview with Geoff French.
Photos of the Conference can be found on Flickr.
The Enterprise M3 video can be viewed here.