Guildford’s continued economic growth, post-Brexit, depends on close cooperation with its key companies and a focus on the important issues the town needs to address.
Cllr David Bilbe, who has overall responsibility for Guildford Borough Council’s economic development, refers to the conclusion to its economic report, published in November, 2017: “Guildford needs to ensure that it works closely with its big employers and key growth companies in the post-Brexit environment. Although the borough remains an attractive location with the strength of the offer in the Thames Valley and the emergence of enterprise zones within the Enterprise M3 area, we must not rest on our laurels.
“We need to encourage more new enterprises and ensure we protect our existing commercial floor space and push on with supporting incubator projects.”
Cllr Bilbe says priorities to address include the shortage of skills and ensuring the town’s education system is “future-proofed” for the economy to grow further.
The report acknowledges high growth in Guildford’s construction sector, continued expansion in the technology-based economy as well as in the professional and business sectors. It notes a decline in food and drink-related businesses and says the number of retail outlets has fallen, although this was being addressed by the Experience Guildford campaign.
The local rural economy is also important and Cllr Bilbe pointed out that, unusually, the greater percentage of the borough was designated as rural, which expanded the economic development team’s urban focus to include villages and countryside.
“We have a thriving rural economy,” said Cllr Bilbe, adding that close links with the University of Surrey and support for the emerging digital businesses built on 5G technology in the Guildford area were priorities for the council.
He pointed out that many of the issues highlighted in the council’s rural economic strategy – particularly affordable housing, broadband infrastructure and green space for health and wellbeing – applied equally to Guildford’s urban landscape.