Gemma brings a new focus to growing the county’s economy
Gemma Davies joined Shropshire Council earlier this year, taking on the important and demanding role of head of economic growth.
She brings with her a wealth of experience, mainly gained from her time at Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Whilst there she made a big impression, leading four place-based development programmes, a business growth service, and skills and employment team. She oversaw structural changes, and developed cultural change to business engagement across a number of services in the council. She led the One City Plan for Chester and the development of a new Commercial Business District working with the private sector.
Under Gemma’s leadership, achievements included drawing in of £230 million of private sector investment, over 300 businesses supported to start up, 2,500 new jobs created and a reduction in long-term unemployment by 32%. During 2016 she was also leading on the development of a sub-regional devolution programme on behalf of the three unitary councils in Cheshire and Warrington.
It was these successes, alongside her steely ambition, which inspired the council’s councillors-led interview panel to appoint her to the role – a role that was subject to an extensive recruitment process from June 2016 through to September 2016.
Since taking up her role in Shropshire she has been busy working on the Economic Growth Strategy for Shropshire for 2017 to 2021 – a high level strategy which aims to drive forward the council’s economic agenda and ambitions.
Written alongside partners, it shows that the council is serious about economic growth, recognises current businesses and the importance of retaining them, as well as attracting new investment into the county.
“As economic growth is one of the key priorities within the council’s Corporate Plan, there is, understandably, a high level of expectation of me within my role. However, I love a challenge and I am really excited to be here.
“Within my first few weeks I have drafted a new draft economic growth strategy for Shropshire.
“Even though the county is widely recognised as a fantastic place in which to live, work and do business, a step change is needed in its economic productivity. It has significant potential to do more and do it better.
“This is what I wanted the strategy to address. We must be ambitious, focused and committed if we are to achieve maximum economic productivity from the assets and opportunities we have here in Shropshire.”
As well as the draft strategy, which will be consulted upon before going to Cabinet for final approval later in 2017, Gemma is eager to shape the team so that it can deliver the strategy successfully.
“I am lucky, I have a great team to work with. However, to reflect the new strategy we need to refocus our efforts and put in place the right resources to grow the county’s economy, whilst making sure that whatever we do is right for Shropshire. I will be working on this next.
“I am pleased to say that I am not doing all of this alone. Shropshire has excellent relationships with its partners and I am keen to build on this.
“So far it has been a whirlwind of activity and my feet have hardly touched the ground. I have been working hard to learn about the county and use my experience to recommend an ambitious but achievable way forward which will benefit the people who live here, visitors and businesses.”