Regional Spotlight: Wales and West
The Welsh economy is reinventing itself. Vfiles talks to ABN AMRO Commercial Finance Sales Director, Wales & West Kelvin Thomas about the challenges, opportunities and financial requirements for local businesses.
The Welsh economy is in transition. Once the centre of the coal, steel and manufacturing industries, Wales has been hit hard by de-industrialisation and the running down of the mining industry. That legacy is reflected in its GDP per head figures, which are much lower than UK and European averages. However, jobs are being created in new industries and, as Kelvin Thomas, ABN AMRO Commercial Finance Sales Director, Wales & West observes: “Wales is reinventing itself by moving away from heavy engineering towards services and high technology. It has a lot to offer as a place to do business.”
Wales is becoming a more entrepreneurial nation, a trend encouraged by the national Government. “What we’ve seen is efforts on the part of Government to encourage entrepreneurs to stay in the country and set up new businesses,” says Kelvin.
The public sector plays a vitally important role in the Welsh economy, not just as an employer, but as a source of financial support. Recent initiatives include a £15m Government fund to support growth-focused companies, with money distributed in the form of grants. In addition, spending on broadband roll-out and the electrification of the London to Cardiff rail link are also expected to boost the economy.
Universities, too, are playing their part, particularly in encouraging the development of clusters of high-tech industries in and around Swansea and Cardiff. Spin-out companies have also been exploiting ideas and technologies developed within these institutions.
Wales has also had to cope with the impact of the financial crisis and downturn. “What we’ve been seeing is companies fighting back after a very difficult period,” says Kelvin.
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