Warwickshire's economy is reassuringly future-based
The most recent Quarterly Labour Market Bulletin reveals a very positive picture for Warwickshire with the economy growing fast and the employment rate at a record high. Good news - but most encouraging of all, believes Warwickshire County Council chief executive Monica Fogarty, is how well-equipped the county is to face the challenges of a fast-changing future.
"We can say with some confidence that there are no economies in the UK more future-based than ours"
For the business world these are not the easiest of times, with the uncertainties surrounding Brexit having loomed large for almost two years, so it is all the more pleasing and impressive that Warwickshire, and the Coventry & Warwickshire region, continues to performing so strongly.
We have the fastest-growing economy outside London and are outperforming any other region. Coventry & Warwickshire is an absolute diamond of an economy and our growth and performance, and Warwickshire's in particular, is a centrepiece to the industrial strategy that the Mayor of the West Midlands is now developing for the whole region.
That is something of which we in Warwickshire should be very proud. There is no room for complacency, of course, and I know the people of this great county well enough to know there never will be a shred of complacency, but perhaps most encouraging of all is that so much of our growth is future-based. Our county and region has a great history, a buoyant present and a very exciting future.
So much of what we are doing in Coventry and Warwickshire is about futuristic technology. We have Vivarail at Long Marston and Very Light Rail at the University of Warwick. Aston Martin Lagonda is developing cutting-edge supercar technology with Red Bull racing. We are doing a lot of work around connected and autonomous vehicles and battery technology with a new Smart City Centre at Wellesbourne and global OEMs investing at MIRA and Ansty Technology Park. There are also local developments in Greentech and Agritech.
Our research tells us that many children now studying in school are training for jobs that don't even exist yet. A lot of those jobs will be involve digital technologies and artificial intelligence and, whilst automation will have a huge impact on the fabric of society, in terms of different ways of working and different elements to the economy, that's where our future graduates and school and college-leavers will be working.
That is why we are investing in the skills for the future and why initiatives such as the Digital Schoolhouse (which now operates in four secondary schools in the county) are so important. For us to be able to develop and grow those skills and that technology right here on our doorstep in Coventry and Warwickshire is fantastic. We can say with some confidence that there are no economies in the UK more future-based than ours.
A pillar of that strength is our globally-renowned digital and gaming sector. By the very nature of their role and offer, companies in that sector can be located anywhere but it is Leamington Spa that has become the national home of digital and gaming. With around 15,000 employees in and around Silicon Spa,' with all their skills, and the proximity to the battery tech and CAV communities around the University of Warwick, that interface between that community and these businesses makes us really well-placed for the future.
Another big driver of our economy is JLR, of course, which brings about 7,500 jobs in Warwickshire and probably three times that number in the supply chain to the region. JLR continues to invest here in new technology and skills and has a number of new sites and facilities in the pipeline but we have done some research intothe economic impact of JLR on the local economy which revealed the range of other activity in the region and that growth is much more widespread than perhaps many people think.
In recent years we have spent a lot of time diversifying our economy in Coventry and Warwickshire so, while automotive is the centrepiece, there are some very strong other sectors too. We are not as dependent on JLR as we once were. In the digital and gaming sector we have around ten per cent of all those employed in games development sector nationally. As we are going to be part of the 5G Testbed for the Combined Authority, that sector is set to go from strength to strength. Evidence gathered for MIPIM 2019 suggested that our region has over £500m of new commercial property in development specifically for R&D in future transport technologies covering auto, aero and rail.
Technology across all sectors is advancing so quickly - and it is brilliant that our county and region is at the forefront of that. We have so much to be proud of - a bedrock of skills and innovation that leaves our economy and all the communities within it in very good stead for the future.