1. VISION FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT(November 20, 2009)
Much effort needs to be made to develop an economic environment conducive to securing a better future for the town and future policies must recognise our problems.
Outside the public sector and its associated professions there are very few avenues for new graduates to gain employment.
With around half of our young people destined to enter higher education it seems that we as a town are likely to lose our brightest people to places where better opportunities exist, often overseas.
This must change. Without work for all abilities and sections of society we as a town will continue to decline and more of our shops will either be boarded up or given over to charities.
We must halt this decline or we will continue to become a dormitory town for other towns’ industries.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Our town council and unitary council have no control of the macro-economic and international business cycles that ebb and flow in a globalised world but they can harness one very powerful tool which should be used to sell the town and which is currently being under-used.
That tool is the internet.
Warminster badly needs its own professionally produced website designed to secure interest from prospective employers across the globe - complete with links in Japanese, Russian, Chinese, German and Spanish. At present there is a website designed, it seems, to attract visitors and settlers but not aimed at bringing in business.
This website should come under the control of Warminster Town Council which should be able to secure matched funding from a wide variety of sources to help finance it. The council should show some vision and needs to be able to take advice from other communities which have proved far more adept at securing central government and EU sourced funds.
Any companies which show interest in the town via the website should receive a personal invitation and welcome from the Mayor who should involve unitary councillors in any official visits.
Warminster has a number of strengths, such as its relatively low crime rate and attractive environment, which need to be highlighted in order to entice new business here. The town was successful in the past when large firms such as Geest and Clarks were enticed to come here by the old UDC and there is no reason why Warminster should not enjoy success in the 21st century.
Unitary councillors also have an important role to play in ensuring existing businesses and potential businesses that wish to expand or relocate here are not held back by official red tape.
The council must also develop better lines of communication with the MoD which is still an important landowner and employer in the area.
Strengthened links with the local garrison commander could yield very good returns as these officers are very adapt at pulling the right strings in high places and it is vital to get them on-side.
As well as selling itself on the web's information super-highway the town also needs to sell itself on the roadside.
Longleat and Center Parcs receive significant numbers of visitors, many of whom have high disposable incomes, but how many of them visit the town to spend their money?
We just don’t know.
We need to ensure that the occupant of every vehicle leaving the Longleat area on the A362 knows that Warminster has much to offer, is open for business and that you can park here for free.
Many other troubling issues which stymie economic development exist, such as the skills deficit in our under 25s and the continuing problems of poor road communication caused by bottlenecks at Westbury and Yarnbrook on the A350 and at Stonehenge on the A303.
These however are matters which will ultimately be resolved by national government although we need to add our voices to the calls for action in such areas.