This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 22nd April 2016
Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months to our steel industry 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.
Firstly, 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.
Around 40% of the workforce in both private and public is employed in these sectors providing goods and services that are taken for granted. It is not generally seen as a glamorous part of the economy and so not enough attention is paid to how we can maximise its impact. This is where we need to start.
We also need to look to the future. Sir 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.
He also points to the potential of Big Data and cloud-based IT for our regional economy - all big future growth areas..
We’re lucky Carwyn Jones asked Terry Mathews to get involved with the Swansea Bay City Region. Let's make the most of it, and draw on his work for the Llanelli constituency in particular.
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
Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli