Simon Gibson, one of Wales’ leading business figures, has agreed to take the helm of the Newport Economic Network as it moves to a new level of maturity.
Three years ago, the network was established as a result of work carried out by the ReNewport taskforce to look at business opportunities under the leadership of Professor Gibson.
A broad partnership of representatives of key bodies within Newport, it has regularly met on an informal basis.
It has helped prepare the city centre masterplan, a framework for future development which is currently out to consultation, and supported the City of Democracy initiative.
A number of significant factors have recently emerged which means a more formal economic body is needed to exploit opportunities and promote the best interests of the city.
These include the Cardiff Capital Region partnership and City Deal; the reduction in, and likely abolition of, the Severn Bridge tolls; and the Great Western Cities initiative involving Newport, Bristol and Cardiff in a potential “western powerhouse”.
Professor Gibson is chief executive of investment company Wesley Clover, based in Newport, which has funded more than 150 tech start-up firms.
As chair of ReNewport he recommended the establishment of the UK’s first National Software Academy, the National Cyber Security Academy, Innovation Point and a hospitality school which are all now flourishing in the city.
He was one of the driving forces behind BeTheSpark which champions entrepreneurship and innovation in the Welsh economy and the Newport-based Alacrity Foundation, an educational charity which mentors and trains graduates to create the next generation of hi-tech Welsh companies.
He was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
Professor Gibson said:
“I am delighted to have been invited to chair the Newport Economic Network at an exciting time of challenge and opportunity for the city. A great deal has been achieved since we launched the ReNewport Taskforce and now is the right time to reinvigorate the economic partnerships within the city to drive future growth.
“The opening of the new International Convention Centre Wales at Celtic Manor, the abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls, and the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal are just some of the key developments that Newport needs to ensure it exploits fully to step up its regeneration. The excellent turnout at the recent Newport Summit – and the interesting discussions generated there – show there is a real appetite and desire to drive the city forward.”
Councillor Debbie Wilcox, Leader of Newport City Council, said:
“Newport is pivotal in many of the economic opportunities that are emerging both as a city and as a key player in strategic partnerships.
“It is essential that we form strong partnerships to make the most of those opportunities to ensure the city is at the forefront of developments which will boost the local economy and create employment for residents now and in the future.
“I would like to thank Simon for agreeing to chair the Newport Economic Network as he has a proven track record in industry, wealth creation and regeneration and we need his expertise and drive to help the city build on its success and become the best it can possibly be.”
Further details about the Newport Economic Network’s priorities and visions will follow in the near future.