A CONFERENCE brought together business people and politicians to champion Dorset as part of a ‘Central South’ region.

The independent organisation Business South wants the private and public sector to speak up for the region and encourage investment.

Its annual conference followed a successful trip to Cannes to promote the Central South at the world’s largest property event, MIPIM.

MIPIM saw a business-led consortium, brought together by Business South under its Regenerate South Action Group, launch the Central South branding on a global stage.

Delegates heard the latest updates and about plans to build on the Cannes event.

A “meet the site owners” zone highlighted development opportunities across the region.

Tim Hancock, chair of the Regenerate South Action Group and executive chairman of the Bournemouth-based planning and design company Terence O’Rourke, said:“Regenerate South brings together a host of regional experts and influencers under one roof, making it an opportunity not to be missed.

“We are one of the most significant and successful economic regions in Britain and we firmly believe there is a great deal to gain from businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships, politicians, and investors working together to drive the area forward."

The keynote speaker at the event in Lakeside North Harbour, Portsmouth, was Mark Davy, founder and chief executive of culture agency Futurecity.

He has worked on projects around the world to create a “narrative” that attracts investment.

He argued that initiatives such as Central South could create a cluster of cities that were defined by creative expression.

He said culture was the key to defining a place’s individuality. He said: “Across the UK we are seeing the rise of the idea of ‘cities of culture’ as our cities and regions use arts and culture to define their independence, explore their uniqueness, celebrate and promote local identity in all its forms.

“We are seeing a unique ‘crosshair’ moment with the growth in the creative industries, a desire for authentic and original experiences, a millennial driven focus on place, belonging and community and the city as a place for creative participation.”

Business South operates as a social enterprise in Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and the Isle of Wight. It connects employers to promote the area and champion the regional economy.

Its group chief executive, Leigh-Sara Timberlake, said: “Regenerate South is now an established event, and definitely the place to be for those who want to learn more about the Central South and contribute towards its continuing success story.”