Local business, education and council leaders have promised fresh thinking as they set out their plans to support a renewed Bath & North East Somerset economy post-lockdown.
A new Economic Renewal Partnership, convened by the council and including tech, culture, manufacturing, services, tourism and education as well as the Bath BID, has now met twice via Zoom.
With shops set to re-open on 15th June, the partnership is focusing on rebuilding confidence in the area as a safe, sustainable and green place to visit.
Its first steps will include a survey of local businesses to better understand their needs and establishing “skills hubs” to re-skill people into new areas of opportunity such as the green economy.
The partnership has also highlighted opportunities to reduce the dependency on high volume tourism and better serve local residents, through reviving High Streets and promoting the world-class tech, manufacturing and professional services businesses alongside the area’s creativity.
Council leader Councillor Dine Romero said: “The lockdown has hit local business very hard indeed. The council has also lost £17m in tourism income.
“Our first priority is to re-open our High Streets safely and sustainably and build on our area’s strengths as a safe, clean and green destination that people have confidence in.
“But this crisis has thrown into sharp relief the underlying challenges facing our area. We can’t go back to dependence on mass tourism.
“Our area has great strengths but we must take this opportunity to be more resilient and prepare for a greener future.”
Laurel Penrose, Principal & Chief Executive Officer of Bath College, said: “It’s crucial we have the right skills in place to help us all, but particularly young people, face these challenges.
“So I am delighted that our tech businesses, manufacturing firms, start-ups and universities as well as the college are all working together through this partnership.
“The ‘new normal’ presents many challenges but we need to ensure we are also skilled up for the opportunities it will bring, whether that is in providing IT support for home working or working in the low-carbon economy.”
Richard Godfrey, Founder and CEO of start up tech incubator Rocketmakers added: “Bath and North East Somerset is well known for its heritage, but less known for its amazing entrepreneurial talent.
“We have some of the world’s best start up support locally helping people turn ideas into products which go on and change the world.
“As we come out of COVID-19 it is vital that we harness that local talent and support people with great ideas to make them a reality.
“Working with this partnership and with other local incubators we are determined to help local business founders make their first products and support them to become the heart beat of the local economy’s renewal.”
Next steps for the partnership include gathering evidence about the future demand for business premises given the shift to working from home during the pandemic and finding ways to highlight and promote the area’s hidden talents.