ONE thousand new apprenticeships, better M5 signs to alert drivers to Worcestershire and a greater choice of quality hotels: these are just three key aims contained in an ambitious county blueprint.

A new body which is aiming to transform the area has rallied investors to “believe in Worcestershire” amid concerns too many people are failing to realise its full potential.

The Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership – a group of industry chiefs and politicians – launched its business plan yesterday.

The strategy, launched with £566,000 of initial funding, aims to attract new investment and jobs by marketing the county.

The key projects it will focus on for new investment are:

  • Inprove the M5 from Junctions 4 to 6 and the Southern Link Road A4440 in Worcester.
  • Better links from the county to Birmingham Airport.
  • Building Worcester Parkway railway station, which is proposed for land in Norton.
  • Developing Malvern Hills Science Park.
  • Creation of Worcester Technology Park, which is still seeking a new anchor business after Worcester Bosch pulled out.
  • Faster broadband, which has already secured £11.8 million of improvements.
  • Development of South Kidderminster Enterprise Park and the eastern part of Redditch.

The plan lists other key aims as creating 1,000 new apprenticeships by 2016, attracting new private sector funding of £750 million by 2017, and increasing the overall employment rate by five per cent.

LEP executive chairman Peter Pawsey addressed 300 people during a launch event at Sixways by saying Worcestershire must promote itself more.

“When I was invited to become chairman, I thought about our county and saw how hidden it was, and still is,” he said. “It’s tucked away and largely undersold, but there is massive potential.

“If you asked most people to pinpoint Worcestershire on a map, they’d get it wrong – a frightening thought.” He urged people to talk up the county as much as possible.

“Open for business is easy to say, but we have to open the curtains,” he said.

He also praised the Worcester News 100 in 100 campaign, which challenged firms to take on 100 new apprentices again this year and once again exceeded expectations by more than doubling that target.

The Government has set up 39 LEPs across the country which are tasked with attracting new investment.

Next year the coalition is expected to take on board a recommendation by Lord Heseltine that they be allowed to bid for £58 million worth of economic growth funding.

It is likely they will be asked to create new, long-term business plans next year which go beyond 2016 in order to make bids for the cash.

The business plan for Worcestershire LEP, which runs to March next year, also says by January 2013 it will set up funding advice clinics for private firms.

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