Our Chair Pat Doody looks back on 2020 and finds some optimism for 2021.
As we head into the festive season, we know that the changes we have all experienced in 2020 will have a lasting impact on every aspect of our work and life for a significant time to come.
As the health and economic impact of Covid-19 started to unfold back in March, alongside our county and district council partners we began rapidly adjusting our delivery and programmes to support the business community. Since then our business advisers have been unrivalled in their commitment to speaking directly with business owners to support and help them through the immediate economic shock and beyond into recovery.
We turned our primary focus to protecting our key sectors and SMEs, to sharing this intelligence with Government to shape solutions, and to helping frontline services source urgent PPE and other emergency supplies. It is not surprising then that a significant volume of LEP resource and time this year has been redirected towards supporting the local and national Covid-19 response.
But our plans to deliver inclusive growth across Greater Lincolnshire remain strong. We continued to work with all partners locally towards our published targets, and this short reflection on the year applauds many of these achievements, despite the extraordinary challenges.
We successfully secured £25.8m from Government to accelerate five of our priority projects to include the Food Enterprise Zone at Holbeach, the new Centre for Innovation and Rural Health, and more funding for our Skills Capital Investment Programme. We have created three new strategic committees this year to support the Board of Directors, bringing expert opinion, drive, focus, and activity across these accelerating sectors: an Energy Council, a Health and Care Enterprise Committee, and a Defence Board. We also introduced new business leaders to the LEP Board with expertise in defence, seafood and skills.
We welcomed both North and North East Lincolnshire fully into the LEP family as members, alongside Rutland which is a very important and complementary new member. All three bring with them additional and exciting opportunities through the clean energy, petrochemical and tourism sectors, and we are confident that together we can drive the best opportunities to our businesses and supply chains, residents and young people.
Meanwhile our project partners have been busy progressing construction and infrastructure schemes to bring large-scale benefits to businesses and residents alike. Follow the project progress in our news section, learn more about individual projects here, and read our annual highlights in this edition.
Key this year has been our ground-breaking work cementing Lincolnshire's reputation for food processing and automation, where we are making great strides in building on our ambitious aspirations to become the national, if not a global lead in this field, from here in Greater Lincolnshire – England's largest food chain. This includes progress and development of a UK Food Valley, and a government HPO (high performance opportunity), born out of unification of this vast food industry through a single business voice. The HPO has mobilised research, academia and Government decision-making to bring about some significant improvements for the sector at the height of the pandemic, thanks to strong LEP influence and the best of partnership working (which we call the triple helix effect).
But this year, I am most proud of our business community and of our first-class business support arm, Business Lincolnshire. The people behind this service delivered very real and essential support across Greater Lincolnshire at the peak of the crisis directly to our businesses. We have seen incredible resilience and adaptation amongst our businesses and we are now working ever more closely with partners to collaborate through tangible support and political influence, to strengthen the foundations built to enhance confidence and create stability and lasting opportunities.
Notwithstanding further adjustments forecast to be made from the end of the EU transition period from 1st January 2021, our priorities into next year remain firm: influencing investment, stabilising and strengthening our businesses and communities, sustainably harnessing our natural environment and resources, asserting our strengths and leadership advantages, and promoting Greater Lincolnshire.
The Greater Lincolnshire LEP is above all a partnership, and that idea remains at the forefront of the work we do and the decisions we make, ensuring that local businesses continue to have access to the support and advice they need to succeed, grow and bring jobs and prosperity. We are proud to be supporting businesses across Greater Lincolnshire during this challenging time, and we extend our thanks to you, our partners, customers, and influencers, for your continued support.
Wishing everyone a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year.
Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP