Suffolk business ambassadors target investment

Business ambassadors for Suffolk:
Left to right, Brendan Keaney, Rosa Dos Santos and David Redhead

Business ambassadors for Suffolk: Left to right, Brendan Keaney, Rosa Dos Santos and David Redhead. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Around 100 business ambassadors are being recruited to champion Suffolk and promote the county to investors who may be interested in putting money into the region or setting up a business in the area. Ross Bentley reports.

The business ambassadors idea is a joint initiative from Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce who have chosen delegates from a range of sectors from manufacturing, energy and transport to art and leisure, and services.

Chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber, John Dugmore, said the idea has grown out of the county council’s Invest in Suffolk programme and also conversations with British Chamber of Commerce offices based abroad who have members who want to know more about trade opportunities with the UK.

He said: “Business people buy from business people, so when we receive inward delegations, we want to put our visitors in contact with business leaders who can talk knowledgably about the business environment and the opportunities. We want to highlight the immense opportunities here and sell Suffolk to business.

“Some of these ambassadors are born and bred in Suffolk, others have come from overseas and work for a firm that has relocated in Suffolk.”

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Dugmore said factors such as good connections to ports, airports and London, competitively priced premises and a good quality of life were some of the things that would bring businesses to the county.

At the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Norfolk and Suffolk, chairman Mark Pendlington said the new campaign will put “some much needed extra energy and focus into saying to the world that ‘Suffolk is open for business’”.

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He continued: “The Suffolk economy is a powerhouse of innovation, talent, entrepreneurship and ideas: from the micro businesses in the Waveney Valley to global companies like BT, Hutchison Ports and EDF; and from outstanding academic institutions like UCS and our FE colleges, to the wonderful cultural tourism on offer. “What better place to live and work, to grow a business, and compete and win in the global marketplace. Suffolk is a place for people of all talents and abilities as we set about driving growth and productivity and boosting investment in the infrastructure we need, to keep this one of the most mobile and accessible parts of the UK.”

It is also hoped the links made through this new initiative, due to be officially launched later this year, will open up opportunities for export to destinations overseas. Delegations expected to visit Suffolk in the next year include trade groups from China and Slovakia.

Leader of Suffolk County Council, Colin Noble, added: “I am proud of the strong business base that we have in our county and I know that many of those companies share my feelings.

“It’s great to see that business leaders are prepared to give their time to help us to promote Suffolk and to support us in our Inward Investment work. Having run a business myself, I know how important this sort of personal contact is.”

: : BEM spoke to three Suffolk business people who have been recruited as business ambassadors.

Rosa Dos Santos – director at Exact Sourcing, Newmarket

“What I like about Suffolk is people are always trying to do something to improve the situation for businesses and people alike. I originally come from South Africa where there is very little support from government. Here, there is so much help and as long as you have the initiative and drive there is a lot of opportunity. There’s the Chamber of Commerce, UKTI and lots of other people who want to help you.

I interview people for job roles every day, in sectors such as pharma, services, tech, and they range from sales, business development, engineers and support staff. People at a certain stage in their career are looking for a good work-life balance and easy travel to work, which Suffolk offers.

People are moving up from London to set up home and also spilling out from Cambridge because properties in Newmarket and Bury are less expensive. There is also a lack of space in Cambridge, so as businesses grow we are seeing more look to set up in the surrounding countryside around the city. It would be nice to see Suffolk take some of these opportunities.”

Brendan Keaney – artistic director and chief executive of DanceEast, Ipswich

“Having come to this region from London I was amazed by the incredible amount of high quality events, of national significance, that are taking place, but we could all do better at saying “We are really good at this”.

DanceEast is an example of this and we are working hard to try to ensure our local and regional communities know about us and can help us spread the word about how great Ipswich really is.

Ipswich has got as good a cultural offer as Norwich and Cambridge but doesn’t yet have the reputation to match. I see the ambassador role as not so much connecting with like-for-like businesses but trying to impress on other businesses that Suffolk is an exciting and buzzy place to live and set up a business. That’s what will attract businesses here.

We have the home of horse racing at Newmarket, the maritime history of Ipswich, beautiful countryside and some of the best coastline in the country.

But we need to shout about what we have more and not underplay our hand. We need to be a glass half-full community and promote all the richness that is in the glass and worry less about what might not be in it.

We also need to get a much stronger sense of a county than we currently have. West and east Suffolk need to pull together more, so there is a One Suffolk feeling. We also need to continue to raise our local pride in Ipswich as the county town

We need to get our story right but this is only a small thing. We already have so many of the right ingredients here.”

David Redhead – chairman of TEX Holdings, Great Blakenham

“We have some great countryside which is easy to live in: there’s a good skills base in the county despite the fact that we always hear there is a skills shortage. The four Suffolk colleges provide a great grounding. I think we take a lot for granted and for someone coming to Suffolk for the first time – they will see what a wonderful place we have here.

Further education establishments like Suffolk One, Easton and Otley College, Lowestoft College and Suffolk New College can also play a role in promoting the region - people who are coming from abroad and thinking about setting up a business here will be looking at the education opportunities for their children as well.

The only difficulty that I can think of with Suffolk is the M25 and getting ourselves to Heathrow and Gatwick airports to do our overseas exporting but with Stansted expanding that is less of a problem. We are wonderfully located with 180 European destinations reachable from Stansted and the Port of Felixstowe serving the world.

Broadband does needs to be sorted in some areas. I think recruiting business people as ambassadors is a good idea as we can give people the nitty gritty of what it is like to run a business from Suffolk. There are some negatives but that is what people want know, so they can work around them – can they get this, can they get that?

We have to be aware that there is competition from other regions who will be working hard to attract investment but we have so many advantages including our geographic location, as we so close to the Netherlands, Belgium and other near European countries.”

: : Visit for more information about Invest in Suffolk.

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