Sunday, 17 April 2016

Llanelli needs a plan

This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 13th April 2016

If Port Talbot steelworks is forced to close the ripple effects will be huge.

The Prime Minister must surely step in and save the British steel industry, which is essential not only for jobs but our defence industry and wider economy too. After all the annual cost of bailing out Tata steel would be £122 billion less than the 2008 banking bailout.

Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months there is no doubt that the Llanelli constituency needs a long-term economic plan.

In my day job running Wales’ most respected think-tank I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of our economy. After a 100 years of decline there’s a lot to be done. But there is much we can do, and we can lead the way here in Llanelli.

Terry Mathews, the man behind the Celtic Manor in Newport, has set out an excellent framework for the wider Swansea Bay region based on attracting the next wave of growth industries.  The revolution in medical technology through gene research offers huge opportunities for medicines adapted personally to each of us, and the idea of a cutting edge research centre at Delta Lakes as part of a ‘wellness centre’ is part of that.

In addition to that we need to focus on our existing strengths. Llanelli born Professor Karel Williams - now a leading light at the highly-respected Manchester Business School - has done a lot of work on what he calls the ‘foundational economy’. He thinks we should be making the most out things that may seem everyday, but have potential to really help the local economy if developed in the right way. He suggests three areas: food production, energy production and the care sector.

There’s lots of research and goodwill we can draw on, and great talent within our area to bring together to work out a way of rebuilding our economy over the next 20 years.

That’s what I want to focus on. Llanelli needs a plan -and that will be my priority if I’m elected on May 5th

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