"Working together for our economic future" (Jersey Evening Post - 15 July 2020)

As part of a regular series, IoD Jersey is sharing insights into the work of its specialist sub-committees, highlighting the role that it plays in supporting Jersey’s business community. This week it is the turn of the Industry Sub-committee and Chair, Sam Sturrock.

Who are we?

The Industry sub-committee was created to ensure IoD Jersey was being inclusive and championing all sectors of business in our Island. We have a committee of experienced professionals from across industries, financial services, media and retail, construction and engineering, agriculture and service utilities. Expertise we pool to help inform debate and decision making. We also consult our members, where appropriate, to ensure we are representing all the views of IoD Jersey’s membership.

Our role

Our experience is never more needed than now, as the effects of managing the global pandemic come to impact our economy and businesses. At IoD Jersey, we believe that the best approach to navigating these choppy waters, is to collaborate with our Government and with each other. We still face a great deal of uncertainty. What we can control though is how we deal with the situation together.

Current situation

The world has changed, exactly to what extent isn’t yet clear, but it has allowed us a breathing space to take a look at whether plans – such as perhaps, the development of the financial/business sector in St Helier – now need to be looked at with a fresh eye. For some the enforced use of technology has been an eye-opener, and lockdown has caused many to ask if having ALL staff in one, large overhead of an office, is necessarily the best option for business, the environment or the community. Would smaller offices with drop-in hubs or meeting rooms, perform better for your bottom line? Would a more flexible approach reduce the rush hour which impacts productivity, harms the environment and increases stress? The last few months have not been purely negative for businesses, for many it has offered an opportunity to press ‘reset’, to look at how we have been doing things and ask if that is right for the future, and to perhaps rejuvenate our businesses and economy; and we can learn from each other.

Part of the ‘reset’ process is the need to diversify our economy. While we want to continue to support our finance industry, which provides 50% of GVA, and there is a need for investment in various infrastructure projects, we must also diversify. Investing in our digital sector is, we believe, critical, and can have the added benefit of being better for the environment. In this regard, we welcome the newly announced £50 million Fiscal Stimulus Fund as part of the Government’s economic kickstart plans, which will see capital projects and schemes for skills and training starting this year.

Some of our members have also commented that we should perhaps find a new way of valuing people and businesses or considering the wider long term impact of decisions such as licensing criteria and planning applications that are not GVA or wholly economically based. That we can use this as an opportunity to redefine what success looks like, recognising this is an infinite challenge beyond political cycles.

Others have referred to the need to review population and employee licensing processes to ensure distribution is fair across all industries, not just hospitality and finance. In addition, a locally focused transparent tendering process for infrastructure and local contracts/projects coming out of the crisis is crucial to maximise the local benefit of Government spending and ensuring excellent connectivity is key.

Future priorities

Looking towards our future, we must also actively engage Jersey’s young people politically and involve them in the discussions on what the Island should be, including what will attract them to stay or return to our Island to contribute in its success. All of our industries need fresh, enthusiastic young talent and we must again work together to support and encourage them.

IoD Jersey has five key areas that we believe should be focused on:

(i) Create certainty

IoD Jersey has been pleased to see the recent Government announcement of its £150million kickstart package. We have been feeding into discussions via the Economic Council and will continue to do so as the details of the new package are released and the effects on our economy can be measured.

Uncertainty is corrosive and strong, timely decision making like this is critical. It is therefore good to see decisive action being taken to stimulate our economy, although we are a long way from being out of the woods yet. The money for this package will need to be found from somewhere and certain sectors are worse hit than others so we will continue to seek feedback and pass that on.

(ii) Developing resilient and thriving businesses boosted by innovation and entrepreneurialism

We want to understand and support the industries that have been hit hardest by the Covid situation, and we want to encourage innovative ways in which everyone’s collective knowledge can be harnessed to stimulate the economy, rather than just monetary hand-outs. It is also critical to reduce obstacles and stimulate innovative and entrepreneurial start-ups to take advantage of post-Covid opportunities. We want to encourage people to start their own businesses, ‘take a leap’ and scale up without feeling discouraged by the disproportionate costs and burdens that can face a small business. We fully support the great work that Jersey Business has been doing in this regard.

(iii) Skills and productivity

Retraining our workforce and incentivising apprenticeships to meet future skills needs are essential, as too is the mental and physical wellbeing of staff whose productivity will improve.

(iv) Strengthen Jersey Culture

We want to act as a connection between Government and industry to help understand the values of our leadership and harness the knowledge of our private sector in reviewing Government spending. Hand-in-hand with this is to promote more environmentally friendly initiatives (including in relation to commuting and business travel) and encourage our Island to generate its own renewable energy. We’d like to see environmental considerations as part of all decision-making as we aim towards being carbon neutral.

(v) Ease of doing business

Jersey has been known for its innovation and in today’s global economy, we need more than ever to have a clear, fully resourced process for identifying new opportunities, evaluating them and getting them to market quickly. Digital will play a role in this and we must take advantage of our world-beating telecommunications network. Jersey should be the easiest place for high-quality clients to do business and we need to continue offering the best service levels; that means having a framework which is constantly subject to ongoing maintenance.

Talent is a key factor when it comes to resources; Jersey must have the right tax, services, environment and immigration framework to attract and retain talent. Brexit remains a threat to this, but that is only part of it. If remote working becomes embedded what can we do to ensure those staff still contribute to Jersey’s success wherever they are based?

It is a big remit, but these are the areas that our members tell us they believe need to be addressed. By listening to voices from across the industries and the community, we hope to help inform the debate, particularly in the new Economic Council, and offer experienced wisdom to find solutions that benefit us all.

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