Stacy is proud to support the region's vibrant Digital Creeatove Sector
"It helps so much that it is a really welcoming business community. Everyone is very generous with their time and have a real desire to see the area prosper through their collective success."
The Coventry & Warwickshire Digital Creative Sector is a globally-renowned powerhouse.
Particularly, the Video Games Sector. The Video Games Cluster anchored around the town of Leamington Spa employs over15% of the national workforce in the industry.
Small but mighty, is how Stacy O'Connor describes it.
Small, geographically, a mere dot compared to some of the sprawling clusters around the world, Mighty, in terms of the esteem in which it is held, its expertise and innovative skills and its economic and employment value to the region.
Stacy is well-qualified to give that description. As Warwickshire County Council's Digital Creative Industry Lead (also currently on part-time secondment to Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership), her role is to support digital creative companies across the region through advice, building connections and attracting companies to the area.
In recent years, companies have found the region's offer very appealing. Coventry & Warwickshire is home to one of the most concentrated cluster of video game development studios in the world, working on some of the world most notable IP, such as Forza Horizon, Fable, Sniper Elite, and last years biggest hit Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout to name but a few. The cluster is predominantly focused on entertainment creating successful titles for console, pc and mobile devices. There are also a significant number of AAA title developers which have multi-million pound budgets to develop their games, effectively Hollywood’s equivalent to a Blockbuster movie.
Leamington has a rich history of video game development spanning almost four decades, with Codemasters often credited as being the catalyst for this when they established themselves on a farm on the outskirts of the town in the early 1980 (and where the HQ remains). This long history has resulted in an organic growth of experienced veteran developers alongside new emerging talent which is no longer reliant on one big developer to sustain itself. There is a supportive eco-system in which to operate, which is also attractive for future employees who may choose to relocate as there is such a variety of opportunities. This also .means we are able to retain talent within the region
For Stacy, Leamington born and bred, talking up her beloved home patch is easy...a source of pride as well as pleasure.
"I love this area and it is wonderful to see so many employers wanting to come here and, when they have come, set down roots," she said. "It's not surprising - the Coventry & Warwickshire region is such a great place to live and work.
"I engage with the businesses and see what sort of support they want and need, and identify what sort of help the County Council and our partners in the region can offer. My role is really about making connections and being a translator between business, policy makers and service providers to ensure we have the best environment for our local businesses to thrive.
"There is also an element of bringing businesses together to collaborate and provide peer to peer support particularly around common themes such as recruitment and developing their future talent pipelines. That is very important because, of course, when businesses arrive in the area, they are new to it so its useful to have an engaged network to join facing similar challenges.
"It helps so much that it is a really welcoming business community. Everyone is very generous with their time and have a real desire to see the area prosper through their collective success. There is competition, of course, but alongside that is a real desire to help and support others in the sector and it provides a richer ecosystem for everyone to thrive in."
Stacy herself provides plenty of help and support in a role which perfectly suits her knowledge bank and communication and organisational skills. Those skills have been deployed in a number of roles for the county council over the years after she first joined on an apprenticeship straight from college.
"Education has always been hugely important to me, so it was a really difficult choice not to take up the university place I had been offered," she said, "but that’s where apprenticeships really come into their own. I feel very fortunate to have began my working life as an apprentice as it offers the best of both world by gaining real work experience as well as continued education.
"It has turned out brilliantly. I joined Warwickshire County Council aged 18, as an admin officer in the Road Safety team. Six months into a two-year apprenticeship, a job came up and I took it but was allowed to continue my education. Warwickshire County Council have been a brilliant employer and have provided lots of opportunities for me with continued professional development. After my apprenticeship they also supported me to return to college part time so soon I had a degree in Marketing Communications as well.
"After work in Road Safety across a number of projects I then joined the Regeneration team which provided the opportunity to engage and support communities in rural areas and initiatives around town centre management, helping to create vibrant town centres. I was also involved with Pride in Camp Hill which was a flagship Prince's Trust project.
"Then I made the move to Economic Development to become an Inward Investment Officer, promoting Warwickshire as a place to do business and progressed to Digital Creative Industry Lead, supporting the growth of the sector and overseeing inward investment in the region.
"I love what I do and the secondment to the CWLEP has been great because Coventry & Warwickshire is a real powerhouse of innovation and talent, with the two working together and complementing each other in so many ways. A collaborative approach strengthens all and I really enjoy being a part of that."