It is safe to say that there has never been a more crucial and challenging time for business in Wales which is why I am pleased to be appointed as the new chair of FSB Wales Policy Unit; a body which reflects the diversity and vibrancy of small businesses, and brings a fresh perspective to business issues in Wales, writes Ben Francis.
Our panel is made up of 12 business owners operating in industries from financial services to metal recycling, and from law to construction. The policy unit will be charged with leading the debate on a myriad of issues affecting businesses in Wales.
Our priorities for the coming months will cover the myriad issues affecting businesses across Wales. For instance, the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan will continue to set the tone for the development of the economy in Wales, and as such this is something in which FSB Wales must play a prominent role in setting out the agenda.
Our priorities for the Economic Action Plan will be to see that it delivers for the whole of Wales, and that the Welsh Government commits to engaging the whole business community in this process.
One focus in the Economic Action Plan has been regional economic development. This is something we have called for in Wales for some time. As Director of a family-run business in Swansea it is clear to me how imperative it is for us to fully understand and prioritise regional economic development. We must ensure that we give every area of Wales the tools they need to ensure that economic growth is supported.
The North Wales Growth Deal, Cardiff City Region Deal and Swansea Bay City Deals continue to be developed and to move in a very positive direction, alongside early plans for a Mid Wales Growth Deal, but we have always said that regional development is about more than just deals. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government to push for new ideas for Wales’ vibrant business economy.
FSB Wales will also be setting the agenda on several other issues this year. Tourism has a huge impact across the country, and in the coming weeks we will be setting out a major new initiative on the role of tourism in Wales. During the “Year of the Sea” we will focus on what Wales means to our tourism businesses, and how we can reflect our Wales brand on a global stage.
The role of Welsh towns and high streets is a major feature of public life and something that we are all concerned with. This year, we will undertake a wide ranging study to look at how we promote the future of Welsh towns. We will consider what our local high streets should look like in the future and how businesses can maintain a presence on the high street during this time of change.
We will work hard to inform Brexit negotiations on behalf of business community in Wales and its potential impact on all businesses, be it farming, manufacturing, construction, financial services or tourism must be considered very carefully. I am determined that the FSB will be at the forefront on all Brexit issues which are likely to affect businesses in Wales. The FSB will be relentless in ensuring all small businesses are fully represented throughout the Brexit negotiations and their concerns listened to and given full consideration.
It is a privilege to chair the Wales Policy Unit at such a vital time and to take over from Janet Jones, who worked tirelessly to deliver for businesses during a distinguished tenure with FSB. There are many opportunities ahead of us, and I look forward to working closely with our elected representatives to make certain the voices of small businesses in Wales are heard.