Looking back to the start of 2016, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne spoke about the importance of the global economy.
At that time I predicted that the Brexit and the US election votes would hold some surprises – and they certainly delivered that!
Here at Lincolnshire County Council, we have been very clear that it is our job to give businesses who trade internationally the best opportunity for their business to flourish.
We’ve developed a strong relationship with the government’s export advisers who work in Lincolnshire and who go out and give businesses day-to-day export advice. I’ve been impressed by the stories of Lincolnshire businesses winning new export contracts during 2016.
As a council, we have done our bit by promoting the Chinese market strongly, establishing an economic friendship link with Hunan province and hosting visits from Hunan delegations.
Lincolnshire education institutions recently visited Hunan and I understand that they will be winning additional business as a result of those visits – which are the result of our the economic friendship that we pioneered.
It’s important to continue to raise the profile of Lincolnshire so that visitors and businesses understand that Lincolnshire is a productive place for them to invest.
Our private sector colleagues in Team Lincolnshire had a strong presence at MIPIM, the international property exhibition, in spring 2016.
The workshop about Lincolnshire as a place to invest was very popular, and several businesses tell me that they are now following up on the excellent leads and contacts that they made at that event.
The cranes that we see on the skyline and the firms building new business premises all show that investment is coming to the county.
I’ve been very encouraged by the range of businesses gaining regional and national recognition during 2016. More locally, the Made in Lincolnshire, Digital Awards, and Select Lincolnshire award ceremonies (to name but a few) have showcased the range of excellent businesses that we have in the county.
Being a councillor gives me the opportunity to visit businesses like that. However, being a councillor also involves shaping, leading, and championing new policies and priorities for the county.
I am proud to be a member of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership board.
GLLEP is rightly recognised as one of the strongest LEPs in the country, and it is currently a leading voice in gaining recognition from the government for further investment in water management in the UK, not just to protect residents against flooding but also to support economic growth.
Within LCC, we have regularly debated the importance of addressing Lincolnshire’s skills challenge – filling vacancies in businesses, raising skills levels, and tackling unemployment. I am pleased that we have managed to attract £13 million to provide extra training and advice to address this skills challenge.
But we recognise that often it is better to tackle challenges and opportunities in partnership, and that is why I have invested time in the Midlands Engine programme.
One of the major benefits of being involved in Midlands Engine is that it can help our businesses to gain access to a major new financial instrument, providing close on £250 million of finance across the Midlands for businesses that want to grow.
And finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Poppies Wave at Lincoln Castle. Close to 500,000 visitors came to see the poppies – a sombre memorial which attracted significant people not just to Lincoln but to all parts of the county.