A new approach to boosting economic growth by supporting local businesses to expand and a focus on making the case for more investment in order to position the town as a destination for employers to relocate is set to be adopted.
This Thursday’s (23 March 2023) meeting of the council’s cabinet will consider a draft town-wide Economic Development Strategy.
Underpinning this work is a focus on pursuing a stronger level of growth by making the local economy more competitive, deploying resources to enable a shift towards a more diverse range of sectors offering a wider range of job opportunities, and using partnerships to best position the town to secure funding for infrastructure to enable the objectives of the strategy to become a reality.
Five priorities aim to provide the right environment to enable a better level of economic growth over the course of the strategy up to 2028:
- Attracting and accommodating jobs
- Ensuring residents have access to employment opportunities
- Supporting thriving and resilient small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
- Community wealth building
- Driving productivity and higher value
The strategy points out several key issues facing the local economy that need to be confronted in earnest: an educational attainment gap challenge; lack of employment land; a low wage base; and traffic congestion causing problems for businesses.
Harlow is in a strong position to better leverage its existing infrastructure to strengthen economic resilience through the Enterprise Zone, including the Innovation Park. The council’s Modus Units at the Innovation Park currently house Medstrom, SMARTKAS and Xylem. The town also sits at the centre of the Innovation Corridor, between London and Cambridge along the M11, which is the UK’s leading sci-tech region. Planned major investments like town centre regeneration, a new hospital and the relocation of the UK Health Security Agency, position Harlow in a key leadership role to help shape the future of the Innovation Corridor and strengthen the town’s existing life science and advanced manufacturing base.
The strategy plans in the short, medium and long term to address the barriers hampering economic growth and will look to capitalise on the town’s unique strategic advantage geographically.
Councillor Joel Charles, cabinet portfolio holder for business and community resilience, said:
“The council is embarking on an ambitious strategy to position Harlow as the best destination for businesses to relocate given our close proximity to London, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. Harlow is best placed for businesses across different sectors to run their operations from in order that they can access domestic and international commercial opportunities. The town is already home to a number of employers spanning several different sectors. Life science, advanced manufacturing and logistics employers have been a key part of the local economy for some time, but it is important to continue to diversify our employment base. That is why the strategy also looks at ways to attract green industries to the town, because targeting employers in that space is just one of the potential routes to create jobs that will enhance the local economy in the long term.
“Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of our local economy, so the strategy also sets out plans to support them to expand by helping to find the right workforce to deliver their ambitions, offering a forum to network more regularly and facilitating opportunities for employers to pursue new business ventures.
“The Economic Development Strategy provides a roadmap to position Harlow as the business growth capital of the East of England. Over the course of the next five years the council will pursue a relentless focus on job creation, accessing new targeted investment in infrastructure and work to support the establishment of a new industry base that will help enhance the prosperity of the town.”