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Solent LEP event explores Freeport opportunities

By Sam Pither
14 June 2022

Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has unveiled its long-term plans for the region including the launch of the Solent Freeport.

Over 300 guests attended the launch event, consisting of business and community leaders, potential investors, education providers and local government attended in person, with a further 200 joining online.

Primary among the discussion was the Freeport and the investment opportunities it will bring to the region in maritime industries, autonomy and green growth, providing a wealth of new jobs in the community.

Also on the agenda was Solent 2050, the Solent LEP’s long-term economic strategy, along with two further funding opportunities: the SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund.

Peter Henley, the BBC’s political editor, hosted the seminar which was held at the Horizon Cruise Terminal in Southampton. Speakers included British sailor Dee Caffari MBE, the Chair of the Solent Freeport, Brian Johnson and the Chair of the Solent LEP, Rachel Randall.

Sailor Dee Caffari, MBE

Alastair Welch, Associated British Ports’ Southampton Director, said: “It was a great pleasure to host the Solent Summit and introduce stakeholders to the Freeport at what is a really pivotal time for our region. The Solent region is home to the UK’s most important trade gateway and has a good deal more potential to unlock. The Solent Freeport will be a catalyst for this.”

A series of afternoon seminars from partner organisations, regarding the importance of the region's unique natural capital and the role of universities in amplifying innovation and developing the skills and talent of those living in the region, built on the Solent 2050 Strategy.

Brian said: “The Solent Freeport will be a key component of the Solent 2050 long-term economic strategy. It will unlock billions of pounds' worth of investment, create tens of thousands of new jobs and play a critical role in achieving national levelling up ambitions."

(L-R: Peter Henley, Rachell Randall, Brian Johnson, Steve Thurston and Alastair Welch)

Read more - Solent artwork by ATM pays tribute to local wildlife

The new SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund, also discussed, aim to support growth, strengthen skills provision, and create jobs in the Solent's core sectors. The funds will also support the transition to Net Zero for businesses in these core sectors while the Prosperity Loan Fund aims to enable new infrastructure to unlock development.

Rachael said: "We were delighted to have an opportunity to share our vision for the region's future prosperity with all those who came to the Solent Summit, and to develop collaborative networks that will support the vision to become a reality.

“Our Solent 2050 strategy outlines how we will work with partners to level up our region, create jobs, drive innovation, and ensure a prosperous economy, providing opportunities for all communities and, in particular, our young people."

Read more - Solent aims high with launch of Freeport and ambitious goals

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