One small LEP for man, one giant leap for John

John Gourd, chairman of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership
John Gourd, chairman of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership

AS far as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) go, Hertfordshire’s is one of the smallest, geographically speaking.

But John Gourd, the volunteer chairman of Hertfordshire LEP, is in no doubt that the county deserves its place among the big cities and regions of England.

John, who works for Johnson Matthey at its HQ in Royston, said: “Hertfordshire has the location, in the triangle formed by London, Oxford and Cambridge, a highly educated workforce and it has the potential to grow.”

LEPs are lead by businesses and formed by councils, the voluntary and education sector and private companies with the aim of increasing economic growth in their areas.

John, who visited Maylands Business Centre for a fact-finding visit last Tuesday, welcomed the “exemplar” close co-operation he saw between Dacorum Borough Council and local firms.

“There is a very strong working relationship in Dacorum, forged since Buncefield,” said John, who is the figurehead for Hertfordshire LEP and its 12-strong board.

“They seem to be reaping the benefits of that relationship now.”

The LEP, which has only three paid employees, is drawing up its strategy for the next three years and has groups working on skills and employment, strategic infrastructure (including broadband), investment advocacy and enterprise and innovation.

Although the LEP can work to lever in funds from government and business, John is clear that its funds are limited and that it cannot do everything.

But what Hertfordshire LEP, based in Welwyn Garden City, can do is make a noise. “The government has given credence to LEPs and Hertfordshire needs to be heard.

“We need to go out there and shout,” he said.