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Vision for future of business in the Forest of Dean

By BHawes  |  Posted: December 30, 2013

Tom Atkinson

Tom Atkinson

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Retaining and growing youth skills and improving transport links in the Forest of Dean are among goals vital for its economy, a business leader has said.

Tom Atkinson, chairman of Forest Inspiration, said the Forest of Dean business community was raising its voice in the county to realise much-needed ambitions for the area.

Mr Atkinson is chairman of financial solutions specialists Simplicity, based at Vantage Point Business Village. He said: "The Forest has been haemorrhaging its talent and as a result businesses have been  losing out.

"The mood is changing. Salaries aren't the highest in the Forest but that will change with more big companies coming here."

He said the Forest of Dean could now boast powerhouses in the financial services, manufacturing and engineering industries.

He said broadband and mobile phone coverage was also improving, as were business links with schools, colleges and the county's university.

Forest Inspiration, an unfunded self-help group made up of key businesses in the area, aims to attract and retain talent within the Forest of Dean.

Earlier this year the initiative helped hundreds of workers made redundant by the closure of major distribution centre The Range in Mitcheldean.

The Range warehouse at Vantage Point closed but former workers attended a jobs fair held by Forest Inspiration, which saw  more than 100 of them get full or part-time work.

 David Owen, chief executive of GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "The initiative to assist those employees affected by the closure of The Range facility is to be welcomed, particularly because it demonstrates how local Forest businesses are willing to come together to support their community."

Mr Atkinson, who said the long-term target was for the Forest to be seen as the "competitive and stimulating" business area it is, said more job fairs would be held next year.

Those throwing their weight behind Forest Inspiration, which was set up two years ago and will next meet in January, include Versarien plc, The Warranty Group, SPP Pumps, Simplicity, Learn Direct, and Gloucestershire College.

These organisations are supported by the University of Gloucestershire, Skills to Go, and chartered accountants Griffiths Marshall.

Mr Atkinson is the cousin of former football manager and pundit Ron Atkinson.

He moved to the Forest of Dean 15 years ago and lives with his wife.

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