CORNWALL: COUNTY NEEDS TO CREATE WORLD FIRSTS

Toby Parkins

Cornwall should build on its history of being at the forefront of new innovations if it is to succeed in the future.

That is the message from the business community in the county in response to the New Frontiers document which is looking to set out how Cornwall will thrive in a post-Brexit world.

Toby Parkins, president of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said that the business community had welcomed the ambition and scope of New Frontiers.

The 152-page document sets out a series of “asks” from the county to the Government for ways in which Cornwall could boost its economy, jobs and housing in future.

Among the suggestions are getting the UK’s first Spaceport, getting a 2p per litre levy from fuel duty to fund road maintenance and creating new arts and innovation hubs in the county.

For Mr Parkins, who is founding director of software outsourcing company Headforwards, the ambition of the document needs to be matched by the people living and working in Cornwall.

He said: “One thing which has been in place in Cornwall is we have had people historically who have created world firsts – they have broken new ground and created new technology and opportunities.

“They have done things which everyone around the world has then followed on from. We just need to believe in ourselves a lot more and have a lot more courage in ourselves.

“We need to encourage our children and young people to look at these new opportunities and actually get qualified so that they can secure really well paid jobs which will start to be created here.

“That is the key to it all really – it needs everyone to believe in Cornwall.”

The new opportunities that Mr Parkins talks of includes the possibility of major space industry being based in Cornwall. While this will be boosted should the Government choose Cornwall to be the location of the first UK spaceport, there are already firms working in the space industry in Cornwall, particularly with Goonhilly Earth Station.

Mr Parkins said: “With Goonhilly we have something unique – there aren’t many places in the UK or even the world that have got something like that.

“It has already attracted inward investment into Cornwall and it is phenomenal what is going on there. There are really interesting people and jobs based there.

“It is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the space industry could bring into Cornwall.”

Mr Parkins also highlighted growing sectors such as agri-tech and other technology industries which have companies in Cornwall doing new things and attracting investment into the county.

He said: “If we are going to turn around Cornwall’s fortunes we need to learn from the past. Cornwall was once one of the richest areas of the UK, in mining we were exporting around the world.

“In terms of space there is a massive opportunity there, but not just in space but numerous tech sectors which we can then sell to the world.”

Mr Parkins said there was no reason why Cornwall could not be the base for firms which would be able to sell around the world and attract millions of pounds into the county.

“The size of the market and the global market is absolutely huge. If we can do things that are world class, just like mining was, there is no reason why we can’t do that again.”

However in order to do this Cornwall will need to change its mindset.

Mr Parkins said: “I don’t like to be critical, but if there is one criticism that we all need to collectively accept is that a lot of the time there is a negativity and lack of ambition and a dismissal of opportunities and a lot of people to dismiss those opportunities quite easily and quickly.

“It is not a Cornish problem, it happens in a lot of places, but it doesn’t happen in places like London where people are more open to taking up opportunities and have more confidence to do so.

“One of the problems we have in Cornwall is that ideas will come forward and there is a feeling of “it won’t happen”.

“What we are seeing now are real opportunities where we can really achieve great things for Cornwall.”

Turning to the New Frontiers document Mr Parkins said that one of the major factors of it would be giving Cornwall more control over funding which might be provided.

He highlighted that much of the previous money which was given to Cornwall from Europe and other agencies was centrally managed.

By giving the power back to organisations in Cornwall to decide how that money could be spent could ensure that it is used in a more productive way.

Mr Parkins said that Cornwall Council’s £600million investment programme would help bring in opportunities to provide housing, infrastructure and employment into Cornwall.

He said: “The business community recognises that there is a need for affordable housing in Cornwall and this is a big step forward in that.

“But this investment will also provide a return to the council which can then be invested back into the services that the council provides – whether that is public toilets or adult social care.”

Mr Parkins said that the way that businesses were being involved in the creation of strategies like New Frontiers showed that there was a much more collaborative approach.

He said: “The council is being a lot more open and I hear that from other businesses that are getting involved in the place board.

“They are really engaging with businesses. It is really early days but certainly businesses in the St Austell area are really engaged in that process and really embracing it.

“Those businesses will be making decision in line with that strategy. It is implementing a much more joined up approach and making the area and Cornwall better.

“It is not just Cornwall Council – they are working with business and other organisations from across the county to do the right things for Cornwall.”

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