A new business investment scheme which calls on local firms to invest in Dacorum’s economy is aiming to put the borough on the industry map.
The Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors (HHBA) was officially launched in December at the Buncefield 10-year anniversary event.
And Gary Stringer, the scheme’s ambassador place manager, says this timing was was not a coincidence.
Many say the Buncefield explosion was the catalyst for change in the town, which rose from the ashes in the following decade.
Mr Stringer, who has lived in Boxmoor for 12 years, said: “The Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors scheme is a really exciting and innovative way for local businesses to come together to promote and shape our area.
“We know that Hemel is a great place to live, work and enjoy – the HHBA is a way to let everybody else know.”
The launch comes after the dissolution of the Maylands Business Partnership, and while it is not a Dacorum Borough Council initiative, the authority is working alongside Gary as an ambassador.
The scheme – which already has nearly 20 businesses on board – asks members pay a set investment fee each year, which is calculated on a sliding scale from £500 to £3,500 depending on how many staff they employ.
A board of around 20 members from all corners of the Dacorum business scene will then decide how the resulting cash will be used to bolster the local economy.
The scheme has been in the pipeline for a year and Mr Stringer says it couldn’t have come at a better time.
He said: “We’re 10 years post Buncefield, the town centre is being developed and The Forum is looking good.”
So if it’s about all the borough’s businesses, why does the name lead on Hemel and not Dacorum?
The answer is: unless you live in the borough, not many people have heard of the place.
Mr Stringer, who has two years to turn the scheme into a success, said: “A lot of people were saying: ‘Where’s Dacorum?’ A lot more people have heard of Hemel Hempstead.
“I’m not saying Hemel is the centre of the country, but its connectivity is perhaps unrivalled.
“You’ve got the motorways, it’s on the doorstep of the Midlands powerhouse, and we’re half an hour from London.”
Mr Stringer was keen to distinguish the difference between HHBA and a breakfast networking meet-up.
He said: “This isn’t about swapping business cards – this is an investment. It’s about collaborative working.”
Those who sign up to the private sector investment scheme will become part of a ‘business community’ which gives firms the inside scoop on what’s happening on the local enterprise scene.
Mr Stringer has already arranged a busy schedule of bi-monthly meetings for the coming year with inspirational speakers.
Members will get to meet, talk and debate with the council, other investors and leading lights in the Dacorum business world.
Mr Stringer, who began working on the project last October, hopes this will foster relationships and a ‘keep it local’ culture – making the most of the plethora of trades available nearby.
It is hoped the HHBA will mirror the success of a similar scheme set up in Coventry four years ago, which now has around 150 members.
According to Mr Stringer, it has transformed the city from a no-go area to a thriving and attractive prospect for investors.
As membership grows, the scheme is establishing a board to represent the broader membership.
To express your interest in joining the scheme or the steering board, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Those already signed up to be ambassadors are:
> Abode Bed and Continental
> Bourne Leisure
> Dacorum Borough Council
> Eurotech Services
> Furnell Transport
> Hemel Hempstead Gazette
> Hightown Housing Association
> Kings Langley School
> LT Consulting Solutions
> MRK Associates
> My Mustard
> Regency Homes Ltd
> Satellite Creative
> Sopra Steria