Huge interest in launch of local enterprise group

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IT already seems like the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has been around for years rather than months.

The organisation has already applied for grants from the Regional Growth Fund – twice – and launched an apprenticeship scheme.

But yesterday was the official launch of Solent LEP at Southampton City Cruise Terminal, and hundreds of business representatives turned up to find out what the organisation was planning.

Interest was so high that many who wanted to attend had to be turned away.

‘This launch is a chance for the LEP to engage the business community and to explain what it’s all about, what it’s objectives are and for the business community to help shape our agenda,’ said Gary Jeffries, of Hughes Ellard in Fareham, who is also on the board of the LEP.

And Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council and another board member, added: ‘It’s a really good way of getting businesses working together with councils and everybody else in the south east of Hampshire.’

The event was organised by the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.

Its president, Dick Oram, said: ‘We’re 100 per cent behind the LEP process.

‘The LEP is the way we want to go, and the way we’ve got to go.’

Those at the launch were told about the LEP’s eight-point plan to grow employment, strengthen the visitor economy, invest in skills, support economically vulnerable areas such as Gosport, focus on infrastructure, support enterprise and to attract funding and inward investment to the region.

The LEP covers the area from the New Forest to Havant and the Isle of Wight.