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1.1 Introduction Role / Aims / Vision

The Business Task Force’s vision was to: ''Make Cornwall the place to do business in the 21st century'' and its aim was to: "establish Cornwall as a model for sustainable prosperity by creating foundations that support innovation and best practice.''

This strategy established the overarching principles and initiatives that guided partners and agencies in the economic regeneration of Cornwall. The aim was to influence and steer partners and service support agencies in Cornwall to provide an environment that is attractive to developing and expanding businesses. It aimed to attract new market sectors. This led to net Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita growth and improved employment opportunities.

In 2000, as the Objective One Programme got under way, business had some very clear priorities for its Task Force. Thanks to the co-operation of our private and public sector partners, we have been successful in establishing many of the processes and mechanisms needed for their attainment.

Objective One was about sustainable economic change; it was also about providing a catalyst. There was a new spirit of partnership abroad; there was recognition that the interests of Cornwall and its citizens transcended the aims of individual organisations and communities. This change is still fragile. Not all businesses found it easy to accept that EU funds could not be accessed individually. The Task Force's strategy sought to direct precious resources to priorities capable of effecting a long-term step-change to benefit everyone in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, not least young people. We sought to establish an environment in which business can flourish long after 2006.

A legacy remains in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly many years after the conclusion of Objective One investment. The private sector was involved with evaluation of the projects designed to improve their businesses; Objective One has changed mindsets and processes – normally such radical changes take many years to come to fruition - given the rate of change to date the Business Task Force has greatly enhanced the prospects for businesses to thrive in Cornwall.

Listed below are some of the activities and improvements the Business Task Force was involved in.

1.2 What did the Business Task Force do?

Managed the private/public sector interface for the Programme
Promoted the Objective One Programme and its aims and encouraged businesses to engage through: - roadshow presentations, production of media articles - speaking to business groups, attending events/shows and website publishing (enthuse by example).
Identified opportunities and barriers in the Objective One process and promoted appropriate activities
Assisted individual businesses and groups with enquiries / grant applications – respecting sensitivities and confidentiality
Monitored spend and performance of relevant measures within the Programme
Attended seminars, conferences and meetings representing the Business Task Force to the expected standard of professionalism
Prepared and delivered presentations / communicated with all levels of the community from individual businesses to Chief Executive and civil servants
Worked with public and private sector partners to deliver the objectives of the Business Task Force’s Strategy and Action Plan

1.3 How did we interact / connect with the Cornish Business Community?

Road shows:

Over 20 presentations.

 

Cornwall Business Partnership (CBP):

Two-way communication through organisations - representatives in turn communicated with their members, the business community. For example, Federation of Small Businesses monthly magazines, regional website, branch and regional meetings, shows and events (Royal Cornwall Show, Newlyn Fish Festival, Werrington Country Fare). We met with and gave presentations to over 1500 businesses in Cornwall, through both the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Business Task Force – despite the Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak.

 

One to One Surgeries:

Explore possible development of project proposals from the private sector.

 

Attend network groups: Peter Casey, South West Investment Group (SWIG), convened regular meetings of SWIG-funded businesses – a progressive group, very rewarding and useful soundboard.

1.4 Implementing the Change

The Business task Force identified five change programmes that were the primary focus of its activities during the Objective One Programme. These were:

(a)
The High Growth Programme identified and developed high growth sectors such as Financial Services, Geo sciences, Knowledge based industries, biotechnology and earth sciences. It targeted these specifically and developed packages with partners to attract these industries into Cornwall.
(b)
The New Businesses Programme made Cornwall the first choice for businesses considering starting or relocating. It raised GDP by encouraging Cornish residents with latent ability to form start-ups and attracted inward investment. The programme focused on developing new markets.
(c)
The Existing Business Programme encouraged a "Can do" atmosphere for those existing businesses wishing to grow. In general terms businesses that benefited from this programme had made the decision to diversify or expand.
(d)
The Business Support Programme linked together the requirements from each change programme and influenced the delivery of a cohesive "One Stop Shop" which serviced the needs of all target businesses to improve their GDP contribution. It also led on the Business Task Force Flagship Project: Project Stepchange.
(e)
The Marketing Programme aimed to raise awareness of the potential of doing business in Cornwall in the 21st century and the excellent benefits that Cornwall provides. The Marketing Programme underpinned the other programmes to assist them in raising GDP. It was designed to be highly focused and aggressive in its execution.

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News & Case Studies

OBJECTIVE ONE BUSINESS TASK FORCE MEMBER, THELMA SORENSEN, HAS BEEN APPOINTED AS CHAIR OF THE ECONOMIC FORUM

At her inaugural event at Trematon Hall on 24th July 2003 she presented the following speech:

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen

I am absolutely delighted that so many of you have decided to join us here, at Trematon Hall, today - a rather different environment from what we are all normally used to for our meetings.

I hope you will find the morning a valuable experience in terms of meeting your other colleagues on the Forum, in possibly taking some decisions and looking at how we might take these decisions forward.

As I am sure you are aware, the Forum, in its previous form, was widely perceived as an ineffective talking shop where up to 64 members, but more usually, many less, turned up, listened to some presentations and then went back to their own organisations until the next time.

We want to change all that.

The Forum is now considerably reduced in size to 37 members. Still a large figure. So, to help make our membership meaningful and productive, we all need to play our part by bringing our own individual strengths and organisational backing to what we do from now on.

As far as I know, this is the first time the Forum has had such a meeting as we are having today. Let us maximise the opportunity it presents.

Coming from the private sector, as I do, you will surely not be surprised that I am asking our colleagues in the public sector to work closely with us and to 'seed' the conditions for economic growth in Cornwall.

I am sure you will agree that it is primarily the private sector that is tasked with delivering the increase in GDP which is so badly needed to raise our prosperity levels and which is also demanded by the Objective One Programme.

I ask the public sector to stay close to business – to work together with business to identify and meet its needs and to listen and respond to what we are and will be calling for in the future.

Of course, this response may mean changing the way things are being done at the moment.

It must be accepted by all parties that this might sometimes be a painful process but, by working together and establishing real lines of communication, as we intend to begin to do today, these problems should be met and overcome to make the best deal for Cornwall.

Although I have said on other occasions that Cornwall is much more than Objective One, the programme still represents a real opportunity to be a catalyst for economic regeneration. Let's grasp this opportunity with both hands.

You will be asked, later in the morning, to share your own vision of what you would like to see in place in Cornwall in the future.

Speaking for myself, I have a personal vision of the future I would like to see. I recently paid a visit to Malmo, in Sweden, in the centre of an area of population similar to that in Cornwall.

It is also geographically peripheral in the wider EU context and does not have the natural resources we have here.

However, it does have a University that plays an integral role in business development in the region.

While we were there we visited a couple of companies which had been aided directly by their university.

One, a dairy owned by a co-operative of around 1000 farmers which, a few years ago, had realised that the company needed to be one step ahead of their competitors. They applied to the University whose research department came up with friendly bacteria to add value to their products. The dairy is now the most successful in Sweden and probably in the whole of northern Europe – making millions of kroner for the owners and the scientists in the process.

Another, a relatively small manufacturing company which had evolved from the research of a university professor who had designed medical instruments let us call it 'cutting edge technology. He had just sold this company to Ciba-Geigy of Switzerland for an untold sum we could only begin to guess at.

The whole city and surrounding area is an acknowledged economic 'hotspot'. It was very obvious that the size of the businesses doesn't matter. All felt that they could be helped by the application of research and intelligence.

Their businesses receive the support they need, in an ever-changing economy, to allow them to succeed with the best that is available at a given point in time.

It was all very impressive and, I am not apologising to say, that I want some of that for Cornwall!

It is, therefore, very reassuring that we are well placed in having the evolving Combined University in Cornwall and the peninsula medical school. These should be an equally invaluable resource to help us deliver the economic prosperity we are all working towards.

I want - and please excuse me for continually saying 'I want' - the best deal for our county. I want to develop what they have in Malmo – and then some!! We have such a beautiful county, let us create an environment that does not require our young people to go away to earn a decent living.

Let us un-lock the present low wage culture and raise aspiration and let us upskill and train our workforce to meet the demands that will be increasingly placed upon it in the future and above all, let us place increasing emphasis on quality in all things.

This newly reconstituted Forum will have a very real say in the future economic regeneration of Cornwall and this process will be greatly enhanced with the development of our new contract with the RDA.

We will, in fact, be in a position to make choices and direct action and we can't be allowed to fail.

Finally, I have to say that the well being of an area cannot be achieved by economic regeneration alone.

It can only be achieved in conjunction with social regeneration and we now have the mechanism – within the Cornwall Local Strategic Partnership – to allow us to work together, with those in the social inclusion sector, to generate a real step change for the Cornish people.

There is a great deal of goodwill towards achieving what we wish for Cornwall and with the obvious enthusiasm and support of our secretariat, I intend myself to do all I can - as chairman - to help make this possible.

........ and we won't get many more chances to do this.

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Case Studies

South West Investment Group (SWIG)
Finance Cornwall

SOUTH WEST INVESTMENT GROUP

The Objective One funded Cornwall Small Business Grant Fund, managed by the South West Investment Group, has assisted nearly 100 Businesses since its launch. The £200,000 funding allocation is now fully committed and as of April 2003 has drawn to a close. Click on the links below to read case studies of three businesses assisted.

Block, St Germans
Cornwall Classic Car Hire, Bodmin
Blue Hills Tin Streams, St Agnes

BlockFinance the Stumbling Block

One example of a business that was helped with a grant in its start-up phase and has since received loan assistance to further expand is St. Germans- based Block, an interior accessories design company run by Tara Ashe and Deb Smith. The initial grant helped them exhibit at a series of major trade shows, and they have since developed their product range and display materials with the aid of an interest- free loan.

At one of the shows, a representative of Vanity Fair magazine was so impressed by their product range, the firm was asked to make furnishings for some of the magazine's famous showbiz parties – including one for Robert De Niro, another at the Cannes Film Festival and a glitzy post-Oscars event in Los Angeles. They have just finished working on the Oscars party for the second year running- this time supplying lighting for the occasion.

At another show, Deb and Tara made contact with a representative from The Conran Shop. Block's range is now on sale there and in a number of other top London shops. They have also developed a range of lifestyle products for Orange mobile phone shops throughout the UK.

"Exhibiting at trade shows is incredibly expensive," says Tara. "However with the financial support we obtained, we were able to cover the cost of machinery, production of prototype products and display equipment for a series of really successful shows including 100% Design at Earls Court last September, which has opened up exciting new markets for us amongst hotels, bars, restaurants and interior designers internationally."

On the road to success

Bodmin-based Cornwall Classic Car Hire rekindles the nostalgic concept of touring in a classic British car. Its fleet comprises an E-Type Jaguar, a Mark II Jaguar, a Triumph Stag, a 1948 MG TC and an MG Midget. The cars are often hired as unusual gifts or as part of special break or touring packages, which include accommodation.

When proprietor Rob Constant approached SWIG in September 2001, he had started trading but realized that he needed further help with national marketing to launch the business to prospective out-of-county visitors. A grant was allocated to match funds that Rob himself had raised, and the investment paid off; the increased profile gained has helped the business to go from strength to strength, and it was last year a finalist in the Cornwall Tourism Awards for customer service.

Rob Constant commented; "We have come a long way over the last two years and I am particularly proud that we can compete on an equal footing with much larger establishments throughout the country. Having an injection of cash at the start to help us market ourselves properly made the world of difference. We are very grateful to SWIG for having faith in us during our early stages, and we still benefit from their ongoing support through their Learning Networks meetings."

Blue HillsTin production helped to continue in Cornwall

Contrary to popular belief, Cornish tin is still being produced in the county- by local company Blue Hills Tin Streams, owned by father and son team Colin and Mark Wills. Assistance through SWIG's Small Business Grant Fund has helped to ensure that the tin products made at the site near Wheal Kitty, St Agnes are now reaching a wider market.

Blue Hills produce tin jewellery and small artifacts, which up until now have mostly been sold to visitors to the site. In order to bring their products to a larger audience, Colin and Mark consulted their Business Link adviser who helped them successfully apply for a grant from SWIG. The finance enabled them to employ local designers to re-style the jewellery, which is now marketed via new sales literature and on the Internet. The attraction itself was also given an image makeover.

Although they have been working in and around the valley for most of their lives, Colin and Mark began the business in its present form – combining the extraction and smelting of tin, the making of jewellery and artefacts, and tourist visits – about six years ago.
Visitors can see much of the machinery in action and also purchase a range of beautifully crafted tin products made from the finished element – such as brooches, ear-rings, candlesticks or Celtic pendants.

"Blue Hills is far more that just a tourist attraction" commented the South West Investment Group's Peter Casey. "It is part of our heritage and deserves to be more widely known. Our assistance has helped Colin and Mark actively promote the business, sell its products to a wider audience and draw in more visitors year-round, which of course benefits the local economy."

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FINANCE CORNWALL

Finance Cornwall, the Objective One funded investment fund, announced the completion of its first three funding deals in January.

Albaston Garage, Saltash
Holmbush International Ltd, St Austell
Leisure Resource, Bodmin

Albaston GarageAlbaston Garage

Albaston Garage is a hi-tech engine management specialist in South East Cornwall, which has just merged with another local business and relocated to Saltash.

The Finance Cornwall Business Loan Fund has provided £20,000 towards the £172,000 deal, enabling the owner David Wyatt to merge with Saltash-based Westella Garage and combine the businesses on one site.

The deal will broaden the scope of the businesses by combining Albaston Garage's state-of-the-art engine diagnostic systems with Westella's 20 years of experience in general servicing, fleet maintenance and car and van hire. Two new jobs have been created and a further three safeguarded.

David said: "We're a small business and I couldn't find any bank willing to lend me all the money, so when I heard about Finance Cornwall I went straight to them and they pulled out all the stops to put a deal together. They've done a great job in a very quick time and the service has been excellent."

The business is now investing in upgrading its IT and accountancy systems, marketing and advertising and training new staff.

He added: "We've invested in the very latest engine diagnostic and tuning systems from the leading manufacturers in car electronics and can handle all makes and models. We also specialise in automatic transmissions and ABS systems, and offer a service unique to this area at a fraction of the price of many main dealerships."

Holmbush InternationalHolmbush International Ltd

Holmbush Industrial, a plastics manufacturer, has secured at £50,000 loan from Finance Cornwall's Business Loan Fund towards a £145,000 investment that will enable the purchase of new machinery and stock, safeguarding the 20 jobs at the factory.

The company produces a range of products, including PVCu extrusions for windows, doors, conservatories and greenhouses, plus a range of window furniture, including plastic-coated curtain wires, and other plastic products like garden trellises and lawn edgings.

Finance director Terry Chynoweth said: "Like most manufacturers we've been feeling the squeeze and are facing increased competition from imports. This new investment will allow us to move towards being more of a sales-led operation rather than a pure manufacturer, and is great news for the company.

"We are purchasing new machinery which will double our output of plastic extrusions, and we are building up our raw materials and stock to give our customers as full a service as possible. Without Finance Cornwall's help we wouldn't have been able to put the funding package together."

A mentor will also be working with the company as part of the Finance Cornwall aftercare programme.

Leisure ResourceLeisure Resource

Leisure Resource is a niche recruitment consultancy that specialises in the Leisure industry, which include, hospitality, attractions, health & fitness and spa markets. Among their existing clients are The De Vere Hotel Group, Champneys, Boots, Esporta and Gleneagles.

Now the company is using a £50,000 loan from Finance Cornwall – matched by £60,000 of Leisure Resource's own funds – to invest in new computers and software, expanding its own website and linking into other major recruitment sites.

Operations director Tony Cooke said: "Our clients are mainly large international companies who are based all over the UK, as well as in mainland Europe, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and across the world."

Although Leisure Resource has around 10,000 current individuals on it's extensive database, Mr Cooke said that the key to keeping ahead in the market relies on maintaining the most up-to-date information on potential candidates, to enable clients positions to be filled quickly and efficiently. This means using the best in today's technology!

Mr Cooke stated that without the investment from Finance Cornwall, the company's expansion would not have been possible. He said: "I think almost certainly that we would not be doing some of the things that we are now able to do immediately, putting in new computer systems, purchasing software as well as taking on two new members of staff who were budgeted much further in our future planning. "Some of the web advertising we will now do was previously out of our reach because it was just too expensive. This had stopped us expanding as fast as we could have done."

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New Local Website

A new job market website has been launched dedicated to employers and jobseekers in Cornwall. www.jobsincornwall.co.uk is a locally owned and managed site which has benefited through three Objective One projects; Let's Do IT!, Enterprise Edge and actnow.

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