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Barking and Dagenham Business Forum launch

PUBLISHED: 16:40 07 February 2019

Council leader Darren Rodwell urges businesses to capitalise on the opportunities unfolding as he launched the Barking and Dagenham Business Forum

Council leader Darren Rodwell urges businesses to capitalise on the opportunities unfolding as he launched the Barking and Dagenham Business Forum

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Businesses were urged to grasp the opportunities £15billion of planned investment will bring to the borough as the council and Federation of Small Businesses outlined a bold vision last night.

Barking and Dagenham Business Forum attendees listen to the speechesBarking and Dagenham Business Forum attendees listen to the speeches

Announcing the launch of Barking and Dagenham Business Forum, council leader Darren Rodwell said the ongoing “incredible” transformation in the borough promises an opportunity for local businesses to benefit while making sure “no-one is left behind” in the community.

Business leaders from Londoneast.uk, that led the redevelopment of the former Sanofi pharmaceutical site into a Business and Technical Park, mixed with various entrepreneurs and start-up business owners, to well recognised local businesses like A13 Steel.

Cllr Rodwell told an audience of more than 100 at Barking Town Hall: “Five years ago I needed to create a vision and five years on that’s starting to happen.

“But this is about a conversation that we need to have and we need to develop and keep having.”

Karen West-Whylie, BEC chief executive, speaks at Barking and Dagenham Business Forum. Picture: Michael AdkinsKaren West-Whylie, BEC chief executive, speaks at Barking and Dagenham Business Forum. Picture: Michael Adkins

“We are London’s growth opportunity and it’s happening and is going to happen. There will be £15billion of investment in the next 15 to 20 years – that’s 25 per cent more than what the Olympics had to transform and area and be the pride of a nation.”

But after stating it was a vision that had to be led “by the community” and much for the benefit of the community he turned on local business representatives in the room and directly asked: “How many of you have contact with the council?”

The meagre show of hands said it all. The need for local businesses, big or small, to work closer with the council, secure registration on the council’s procurement portal to win contracts and create closer ties with each other was clear.

“We are launching the forum to collectively invest in you so you collectively invest in our community,” he added.

“Whether you reside here, work here or run a business here, if we can’t recycle the money here we’re not doing the right thing.”

The event saw representatives from partner organisations speak, including BEC (Barking Enterprise Centre), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and cllr Sade Bright, cabinet memmber for employment skills and aspiration.

Cllr Bright said: “It’s important businesses engage and take advantage because if you succeed our residents succeed.”

Michael Lassman, FSB regional chairman, said of the 170,000 members nationwide only about 250 came from the borough that offers such a “vast opportunity”.

Whereas Karen West-Wylie, BEC chief executive, explained how the BEC helped launch and bring to the area 172 businesses in 2018, 40pc more than 2017. She added: “We must have a meaningful conversation about the art of the possible. We are facilitating a cultural shift.”

And with an impromptu speech, John Lewis, who led the Sanofi site transformation, said: “I have a huge belief this is the place to do business. I could see 10 years ago London had to expand east.

“Just five years ago Sanofi was closing down but it wanted to leave a legacy. We took it in a different direction, attracted the film industry, data centre, Pipe Major (pub/restaurant) and Travelodge, Elutec (Academy of Design and Engineering).

“Embrace it, you have the chance to deliver something so special.”

If you’re a business and want to get involved email sade.bright@lbbd.gov.uk to find out more.

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