Cllr Mountney asked where the relationship managers were from and what their skillsets are? Paula Basnett said some were from industry and the others were long term local authority employees. Two were long term local authority officers and three were fairly new but all of them had degrees. One was based on the IT sector, … Continue reading “Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee 7th November 2011 Part 7 relationship managers, IT, construction, business forum (a local forum for local businesses), inward investment manager, Birkenhead Town Hall”
Cllr Mountney asked where the relationship managers were from and what their skillsets are? Paula Basnett said some were from industry and the others were long term local authority employees. Two were long term local authority officers and three were fairly new but all of them had degrees. One was based on the IT sector, the construction sector relationship manager was a woman (who previously had had no background in construction but had learnt over the last two years). The other three had been longer in the team but had had no sector experience except for the last two years. In future they wouldn’t recruit local authority officers but buy in from sector experts instead.
Cllr Stuart Wittingham asked about the business forum. Paula Basnett replied that it is password protected, but they check the address and contact details. They had had lots of enquiries from Liverpool companies with offices in Wirral, but it was only for Wirral companies and businesses.
Cllr Pat Hackett said it was hard to find investment. Cllr Phil Davies arrived. Cllr Pat Hackett asked if there was proactive matching done between investors and businesses to invest in? He said it was important not to rest on their laurels and to have vision, strategy and ideas.
Paula Basnett said the appointment of an inward investment manager would help them to work closely with investors, to go out and be proactive and make organisations aware of the development sites on the Wirral. They also supported indiginous businesses. An investor was looking at Birkenhead Town Hall which had been a referral from Cllr George Davies. The investment manager would develop the inward investment strategy which would identify potential investors.
The officer said that they [Wirral Council] also worked with the Manufacturing Advisory Service on culture and had made eighty-one referrals in the last year. They go in with MAS who had a list of practitioners who helped with office or shop culture and worked to add value to the business, attract industry and keep the manufacturing base. Manufacturing hadn’t gone from Wirral, Teledyne CML and Cammell Lairds were examples of positive news on jobs.
Cllr Simon Mountney commented that it was getting increasingly difficult for businesses.
Paula Basnett said their aim was to increase membership on the business forum. According to their CRM system they had had contact with four thousand businesses over the last decade. Their aim was to have an extra five hundred register each year for the business forum, but it as getting difficult to get new business users.
Cllr Mountney asked if it was a local or national target. She replied it was a local target. Cllr Mountney asked how many hits a month it was getting.
Paula Basnett said it was password protected but they measured how long visitors spent on the site and what areas were of interest to them. Cllr Mountney asked how long on average each visitor stayed for?
The Chair, Cllr Johnston asked for a report on this to a future meeting.
An officer said that some businesses were not doing well and some were leaving the Wirral. One had made a decision to move to Hungary and Wirral Council was working with the hundred and eighty staff affected.
The forty-six apprenticeships were not just for young people. They also went into companies that they heard were experiencing trouble, to try to alleviate any cashflow problems. The project manager would look at the books and try to keep abreast of any financial problems.
Cllr Tony Cox asked about the profile of those chosen to be business angels, was a maximum percentage rate of interest agreed or was that between the business and the investor?
Paula Basnett said that they just coordinated it, but they could check out the background of business angels with Companies House. The interest rate was between the investor and the investee.
A councillor commented that first tier aerospace engineering as well as second tier precision machine engineering was coming back to the UK. A council officer said that Cllr Davies had been at an event about this a month ago organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport called “Give Yourself the Edge” in Bromborough. They were also working with the new management at North West Precision Ltd which was part of the manufacturing base. Wirral Council had also advertised the post of Inward Investment Manager, the closing date had been last Friday. He said managers go into engineering businesses and suppliers of engineering businesses so that Wirral keeps its engineering base and grows it when the conditions are right.
Paula Basnett gave a case study of a business that had run for thirty years in Birkenhead, Hankinson Painting Group. She said that Hankinson Painting Group had “not been complimentary about support” [from Wirral Council] but “wanted to grow” and were “eligible for funding”. They had received a Business Investment Grant (BIG) to diversify into new markets. £64,000 had been given to Hankinson Painting Group which equated to £250,000 of support and had secured sixty-eight jobs and created sixteen jobs. Hankinson Painting Group had secured new contracts in the rail industry and now had a turnover of £5-6 million and employed 244 employees. Steve Hankinson was now “very complementary” of the support received to develop the business.
Paula said that they tried not to duplicate the work of the Manufacturing Advisory Service who worked with Graham. She said they give Mark a lot of referrals. The business forum had 2,030 members. This gave members access to business opportunities, procurement, tenders, a directory, information on major developments such as the Peel Project, information on the intermediate labour market and apprenticeship information. Businesses could also search for a local plumber or architect in a forum which Paula said was “unique in the North West”. She said that other Merseyside local councils wanted access to it. She had some great case studies of inter-trading and joint working. Paula also mentioned the workshops and how businesses could use CHEST which contained details of public sector procurements over £10,000. Businesses could also sign up to a daily or weekly list of tenders.
Paula Basnett continued by saying that there were the business forums and businesses were increasingly contacting Wirral Council more and more. Under the new structure, they would go out to see businesses, agree an action plan and bring in support from sector experts (not local authority employees). From referral to action plan, the relationship manager would agree the needs and requirements of the business. The action plan would go to Paula. This support was for two types of businesses, those with five or more employees with a turnover of over £100,000 and micro-businesses with one to five employees and a turnover of £100,000 or less.
The New Brighton conference had brought business angels with money (a bit like Dragon’s Den) looking to invest in businesses that couldn’t get help from banks with their projects. There was a business angels network and a new focus on social enterprises. She said social enterprises were a business and make a profit, the only difference was in the commercial sector that the profit went to owners or shareholders but in as social enterprise it was given to who the social enterprise supports.
Paula also detailed help and advice they give businesses in the areas of development control, business rates, planning permission, schools (entrepreneurship) as well as support to schools. She said there was a SME Project Manager, Micro-business Manager, Business Angel scheme and Social Enterprise Team.
She said they were also working with social enterprises with their business plans specifically to do with working with the Department for Adult Social services.