Can Community and Business Work Together in Harmony in Pembrokeshire?


In this week's exclusive column, Iwan explores whether business and community can work together in harmony in Pembrokeshire.

In Pembrokeshire, local businesses are at the heart of our communities, and we have seen a continued growth in entrepreneurship and broader diversification from traditional industries.

PLANED has been working with communities across Pembrokeshire for over 30 years, and during that time has both seen, and contributed to, a number of changes during that time. With a new team now in place, we are in a more forward looking position to engage with appropriate partners and wider sector leaders to genuinely have a greater role in supporting businesses within communities across the county.

It is clear that local businesses have always been the backbone of our communities – they employ our local people, support our local supply chains, and often champion our other local services. Yet sometimes in the past, limited focused projects in communities funded by outside sources, appear on face value, to forget that local businesses are also local people.

PLANED and others going forward clearly see this, and are increasingly working collaboratively to highlight, support, and promote the role of local businesses as being as much as a key anchor for communities, as a school, a place of worship, a sports team, and other community venues.

It was interesting that at a recent event hosted by PLANED to promote our Enterprise Network, just over 50 businesses from across the county attended to hear the promotion of stories from other small business owners and leaders.

Attendees were able to get a raw, truthful, yet overall encouraging insight into the situation many small businesses within Pembrokeshire find themselves, and this voice is increasingly important in the identification of sustainable outcomes for our communities in Pembrokeshire.

The stories we heard from particularly family businesses, some of whom are now second and third generation owners, illustrated the depth of reliance on these businesses by their workforce, communities, local supply chains, and partner organisations.

It could be argued that without business, many communities would struggle to survive longer term past the next generation.

The role for PLANED and our many respected partners, is to not only to continue to listen to the voice of business and communities, but to support, to act, and to deliver effective and sustainable change where applicable in partnership across these communities, in line with our key and growth sectors.

Whilst continuing to support the current labour market that are employed by our businesses in Pembrokeshire, and their development to remain technically competent and competitive in a growing economy, we also need to look at how we support the future labour market of Pembrokeshire.

The emerging skills and talent from our communities are the workforce of tomorrow, and also will be key to the future sustainability and resilience of our communities across the county.

Therefore business and community do go hand in hand, and the work to align the two agendas together continues to develop and evolve, and we must not lose sight of the common goals afforded by both, that collectively will continue to impact on our county in general.

More About Iwan Thomas

Iwan Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer of PLANED, and joined the organisation here in Pembrokeshire in October 2018 having worked in the public sector for over 20 years.

Prior to joining PLANED, Iwan was the Regional Programme Manager for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board for five years, where he worked on the Growth Deal for the region, and led on the skills and employment agenda.

In addition to a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Iwan brings considerable experience from working across the private, public and third sectors in partnership across Wales, with recent voluntary posts held including being Chair of the Board of Directors for North Wales Science; a Trustee at Theatr Clwyd; and an Advisory Board Member for the North Wales Regional Schools Consortia.

Iwan is a passionate advocate of skills development and community engagement, having been invited to speak at many national conferences and seminars; and brings to PLANED, direct experience of developing the Regional Skills Partnerships model across Wales, and delivering sustainable outcomes for communities in partnership with employers and politicians on key projects of local, regional, and national significance.