Leading business figures from across the region gathered this morning (Friday, January 24) for the launch of the Western Daily Press Business Guide 2020.
Launched at the Aerospace Bristol museum, the magazine is a celebration of the achievements of the West’s best businesses.
The magazine, which is free inside today’s Western Daily Press, includes the publication of the 150 biggest businesses with their headquarters in the Western Daily Press circulation area.
Top of the pile was South Bristol-based Imperial Brands.
The tobacco giant is a stalwart of the FTSE 100 and has an annual turnover in excess of £30billion.
The audience at the launch heard speeches from Mike Norton, Reach plc editor-in-chief for the West; Mark Hopwood, managing director of GWR; and Anna Elliott, a partner in Osborne Clarke’s employment practice.
Ms Elliott updated the audience on the digital transformation that is sweeping through Britain’s workplaces.
Among her key points she said that it was vital for workforces to remain fit for the future; the importance of Artificial Intelligence in recruitment; further advances in companies offering flexible employment and the rise of the gig economy.
She also touched on the significance of valuing neuro-diversity in the workplace, with huge potential rewards in allowing people who think radically differently to thrive, particularly in the tech and creative sectors.
Mr Hopwood, who earlier this month was seconded to run South Western Railway, talked about the huge investment that has been made in the region’s railways, culminating in the launch of GWR’s new timetable in December.
He said that an independent study had shown that the economic benefit to the West of faster journey times, more frequent trains and additional seating capacity was £199million in the first year alone.
He added that longer trains, running on electricity, equalled a 36 per cent carbon dioxide reduction and the green credentials of rail travel was increasingly important.
Mr Hopwood said that while he sympathised with the difficulties of regional airline Flybe, he thought the improvements to the rail service in the South West made it difficult for an air service from cities such as Exeter or Cardiff to London City to operate successfully.
‘Imagine what we can achieve with the technology of the 2020s’
The massive investment in electrifying much of the region’s rail-lines and on a new fleet of trains, he said, was the product of long-term industry planning and clear government investment strategy.
He said for the future improvements he’d like to see manifest themselves it was “important that the South West made itself heard”.
He said: “We have all heard the noise by the Northern Powerhouse since the election.”
Mr Norton had earlier remarked on how appropriate a venue Aerospace Bristol, in the shadow of Concorde, was to host the event.
He said that for all Concorde’s achievements anyone who set foot on her could see they were from an analogue age.
“Imagine what we can achieve with the technology of the 2020s,” he said.
The magazine, sponsored by EDF Energy, GWR and Osborne Clarke, includes a host of features assessing the key sectors of the region’s economy. To read the guide, visit https://issuu.com/reachsolutions/docs/wdp_business_guide_2020
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