THE borough means business in the wake of Olympic exposure as plans for ‘very exciting’ times are set in motion by industry insiders.
The future looks bright, but development won’t happen overnight in this economy, traders are urged to remember.
Economist Nigel Jump said although the borough had beaten the UK average for growth during the third quarter of 2012, progression would be slow going forward given the current economy – and businesses should plan for weak growth.
He said: “If you plan on the basis of weak growth then it’s much easier to succeed in good markets. It’s about capability.
“Have your staff, workforce and general population got the capacity – the skills – to be competitive in this period of sluggish growth, which may continue for quite a while?”
Work is already underway on the £60million New Look Gateway site which will create 1,000 new jobs, the Link Park site in Chickerell and Dorchester’s Brewery Square, which is set to employ 500 people.
And there should be good news at sea as Condor Ferries is expected to make its return next year.
Key themes such as attracting new development, retaining the borough’s brightest youngsters and a tourism strategy which will make Weymouth and Portland a prime destination out-of-season are also being put into action. Mickey Jones, chief executive of DJ Property, the company developing the £14million Link Park in Chickerell, said that while business fortunes were mixed during the Olympics itself, the legacy was not just about one year and that photos of the area going worldwide would publicise it as a great place to live and work.
Mr Jones added: “What we have to make sure as a town is that we have the infrastructure to deliver on demand.
“If the town can offer housing, broadband and schooling – things businesses and people looking to relocate for work prioritise – then the puzzle will come together and Weymouth and Portland will prosper.”
He said that things like high-speed broadband will encourage more business to the area.
Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce president Anna-Maria Geare said the opportunity is ripe for the borough to capitalise on the exposure it has been given.
She said: “It’s very exciting.
“The one thing we can’t do is go back to how we were before the Olympics. We can’t do what we have always done. We must use our new appeal.
“The borough is looking at long-term jobs and huge prosperity to the area.”
She added: “Making the borough attractive in all seasons, not just the traditional summer months, is important.
“We want to be appealing to those who like walking and climbing.
“It’s about extending Weymouth and Portland’s appeal, rather than changing it.”
This could be done through a new tourism strategy, which could include extending the closure of The Esplanade every summer and free entertainment like the Maritime Mix and sports, which were popular during the Olympics.
Julie Cleaver, managing director of Open 4 Business, said key projects the council, chamber of commerce and other groups will look at include development at the Pavilion site and businesses working closely with higher education providers – ensuring bright youngsters make careers in the borough.
“But businesses are urged to realise the legacy will be a long-term plan and it’s hard to see what the picture will be in five years’ time but it looks promising,” she said.
“It is difficult to assess where Weymouth and Portland will be in five years’ time in terms of business development as such a lot depends upon the general economy.
“However, it is vital that all threads of the business community and the council focus on making the most of every opportunity, seeking out potential investors and making it easy to do business in the area.”
Councillor Mike Goodman added that the borough council wants to give employers a picture of the area as a ‘whole package’ with opportunities’.
He added: “I cannot emphasise enough the increase in the borough council’s credibility with central government.”
NURTURING the borough’s young talent is key to the economic legacy, local figures have said.
Council leader Mike Goodman, below, said the council will be pushing for training for young people in the new industries that develop in the area so that the borough can retain its brightest youngsters.
He added: “It’s one of the legacies I have been pushing for from the very beginning.
“Unless we can raise the general economy we will continue to see our brightest and best youngsters drifting out of the county.”
Shaun Hennessey, owner of Blondz salon, added that 70 per cent of his current staff were first taken on as local apprentices.
He said: “It has to be about career progression, not just two years of an apprenticeship.”
Weymouth College vice principal Rob Jones said: “It’s important that we all work together to identify where Weymouth and Portland is going in the future so that we do keep our young talent here in the borough.”
Build On Strengths
ALTHOUGH known as a bucket and spade resort, insiders have said the borough needs to capitalise on strengths which emerged over the summer.
Rory Griffiths, right, managing director of Creative Solutions, said big markets in Holland, Germany and France emerged during the Olympics.
He added that the borough should follow a model like Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth because visitors instantly know what they’re getting.
He said: “If the town has a vision that everybody – the BID, chamber of commerce, the local authority and businesses – got behind, we would have something to work with. Much like what the Olympics was.
“That was something we got behind because we had a vision.”