A quick Q&A with… Mandy Thorn MBE
Our Quick Q&A with… feature has been launched to give an insight into the roles,
responsibilities and opinions of Marches LEP Board members as they work on behalf of the region to drive economic growth and the creation of sustainable private-sector jobs.
Third up to to take some questions is Chair of The Shropshire Business Board, Mandy Thorn MBE.
Q. Can you explain your role within the Shropshire Business Board and what it exists to achieve?
I currently have the honour of being the Chair of Shropshire Business Board which exists to promote Shropshire as a brilliant place to live, work and play.
The board is drawn from a wide range of business types and sizes and we serve as a sounding board for the local authority to test its economic strategy against, as well as providing feedback to the local authority on what the economic challenges facing businesses in the county are.
Given we’re all at the coal face of business in the county, we’re able to provide genuine insight on the impact that economic strategies will have on the businesses operating here.
All in all, we’re here to champion business in Shropshire.
Q. How does this role link to the Marches LEP?
I have a seat on the Board of the Marches LEP that I simply wouldn’t have without holding the role of Chair on the Business Board. This is vital as it means that the LEP genuinely has the voice of local business at its heart.
The diversity of the Business Board’s membership, which I represent, coupled with representation from FE and HE institutions; the local authorities; the voluntary and housing sectors; and those from key business sectors, allows the Marches LEP to effectively focus on driving economic growth in the Marches.
Q. What do you view as being the most important aspect of your work with both SBB and MLEP?
That’s simple – my roles on both the Shropshire Business Board and with the Marches LEP allow me to be an advocate and ambassador for businesses in the area. I believe I’m also fortunate enough in these roles to be something of a sense check to ensure that strategy and policy affecting businesses is being managed in such a way as to make it as beneficial as possible.
Shropshire and the wider Marches region boast an incredible innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We’re also uniquely positioned geographically which opens up distinct business opportunities in each direction. It is, therefore, fabulous to be part of the effort to make the Marches known to a much wider audience.
Additionally, as a business owner myself, I appreciate what many of the key challenges to businesses here are. I’m experiencing them in my own company and so can empathise with others from throughout the business community whether they’re facing issues around recruitment of sufficiently trained staff; the standard of transport connectivity; or the quality of mobile and broadband networks.
Q. Looking forward to the launch of the Growth Hub in Shrewsbury, how will the Shropshire Business Board support this and what will it offer to local businesses?
The Marches Growth Hub in Shrewsbury will provide somewhere that people who are keen to get in to business or grow their enterprise can go to and meet, get advice and be able to network with others and this is something to look forward to and support.
The growth hub model has long been championed by Shropshire Business Board as something that should exist for businesses in Shropshire to access. We were, therefore, delighted when the LEP announced that the ‘virtual’ Growth Hub in the Marches would be supported by real sites in each of the local authority areas.
It is vital that businesses in the county, whether they’re start-ups, large businesses, or the often forgotten middle, have somewhere to turn to get advice that is appropriate to them and their specific needs here in Shropshire.
Q. More and more powers are being devolved to the regions – how is that being played out here in the Marches?
There is certainly increased local responsibility for allocating centrally sourced funding, but it’s worth remembering that this funding isn’t simply given to the LEP to distribute as it sees fit. It needs to be bid for and a real return on investment needs to be demonstrated. The involvement of the Business Board is therefore vital in ensuring that the right businesses, which can contribute effectively to what are often infrastructure projects, are aware of the funds and can contribute to a strong ROI.
Q. What do you view as the greatest barrier to growth to businesses in this region and what is Shropshire Business Board and the Marches LEP doing to address this?
Above all else, access to skilled staff has to be one of the greatest challenges that faces businesses of all sizes and across a range of sectors in the Marches. From the contact that I have with businesses throughout Shropshire, it’s clear that many are prepared to deliver additional and on-going training to their staff but the challenge lies in accessing these people in the first place.
With FE and HE representation on the board of the LEP, businesses have a direct channel through which issues around skills can be raised. Skills development also sits centrally to the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).