Last night saw the Wandsworth Business Forum at Balham (with huge thanks to The Bedford for hosting us). And I came away feeling very upbeat about Wandsworth, and business in Wandsworth.
The council’s Economic Development Office run the meetings, rotating around locations in the borough at various business friendly times. The basic concept is to have some speakers on business related topics, followed by a networking session.
I was one of the speakers and was live-tweeted by Ian Fenn, something both flattering and scary – because it makes you realise how much of what you do can be public and instantly accessible. I’ve included his Tweets at the end of the post.
My spot was a real gallop through two topics. The first was what Wandsworth is doing to help fight the recession – the easiest thing to do is point you to wandsworth.gov.uk/recessionfighting. The second was to highlight the positive signs that are coming from the recession.
It’s easy to be negative in a recession, and I’m probably as guilty as any for that, but there are some good reasons to be postive in Wandsworth.
We monitor a wide range of indicators, like unemployment and benefit take-up to vacancies on our high streets, to watch how the recession is affecting Wandsworth. I won’t pretend we’ve not been hit, but we seem to be suffering much less than other places. So unemployment remains below the London and national averages and our vacancy rates are still remarkably low.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems around the corner. It might be unemployment is low because people are living off redundancy payments rather than signing-on, but so far we seem to weathering the storm well.
And there’s a lot to be positive about. Wandsworth is incredibly well placed to recover rapidly when the recession ends. We have a real vote of confidence in Nine Elms from the US Embassy. We have a highly skilled and flexble workforce. We have a prime, inner London, location.
But the main reason I came away upbeat was not because of what I know from the statistics, but from talking to businesses afterwards. No-one I spoke to pretended they weren’t having to tighten their belts, but there was a confidence and desire to succeed beyond that. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a business friendly borough – but when you meet the businesses here, it’s hard not to be business friendly.
Ian Fenn’s Tweets are below. The ‘From…’ is a link to the original Tweet on the Twitter website.
I now know I am at the Wandsworth Business Forum but for a moment there I thought I was at some bizarre fan club for deep-fried party food.