As the New Year begins Matt Southall, Acorn’s MD looks ahead at the increasing opportunities for Wales, and how Welsh businesses and the public sector must work together to ensure we promote the quality of our products and services beyond just the Welsh borders.

New Year

The start of any New Year is an optimistic time with the next 12 months holding so much potential. Whilst looking ahead I would urge us all to also keep looking out – the Welsh business community has increasing opportunities to take our expertise and promote the quality of our products and services beyond just the Welsh borders, where we should aim grab a big slice of the action and bring it back home.

There seems to be much more happening these days that provide opportunities for Welsh businesses to hang our hats on that could provide some real benefits for the Welsh economy. For example, very soon Qatar Airways will launch its first flights from Cardiff Airport, and the access it gives Welsh businesses to the Middle East and beyond is a terrific development; providing the opportunity to open Wales up for business in a whole new way.

Looking beyond Welsh borders

And we know it’s important for businesses to look beyond Wales’ borders for two main reasons of course; expanding Welsh opportunities for exporting goods and services to new markets and encouraging inward investment into Wales.

As someone running a significant Welsh head-quartered business, and one which makes an important impact on the Welsh labour market for both employers and jobseekers across a range of sectors, it has been great to see how both the Welsh Government and the Wales Office have developed their activity in promoting and representing Wales across the UK and around the world more and more in recent times. Long may both governments continue to build on these efforts, which business leaders up and down the country will agree is something we need to keep doing, and indeed will be interested in supporting and contributing to wherever possible.

‘Internally’, the Welsh Government continues to invest heavily to make Wales more appealing to international businesses and more effective for home-grown ones, by developing and investing in initiatives like the city regions, transportation and infrastructure developments and so on – one good example being the Tech Valleys Project, which is a £100m investment project to create 1,500 jobs for ‘advanced skills’ over 10 years.

And ‘externally’, the Welsh Government will be further expanding its network of international offices to also give Wales a permanent presence in Paris, Montreal, Berlin, Dusseldorf, and, of course, Doha. The strategy to reignite our presence outside of Wales is arguably more important than ever; with our withdrawal from the EU seemingly imminent we need to be promoting Wales as country with and within which it is good to do business wherever possible.

Vital investments 

For those questioning the investment in European offices, it’s worth noting that there are 170 French and German companies in Wales employing over 20,000 Welsh staff. These figures alone demonstrate why we can’t turn our back on Europe; it’s far too important a market for us. We also can’t overlook the companies that are already here - as well as it being vital that they maintain their investment, there is also potential for further investment in the people and supply chains based across Wales.

I can also testify first-hand the tremendous support in providing advice and facilitating new contacts that Acorn has received from the Welsh Government’s office and representatives in Dublin, as we’ve recently developed our activity in Ireland and look to open a new office there by Q2.

And of course, the Welsh Government and the UK Government continue to be tremendously active in ensuring Wales can benefit as best as possible from private sector-led initiatives like Wales Week in London and Global Welsh. These are superb examples of the private sector taking a lead in helping to promote Wales whilst benefiting directly from the excellent contribution and collaborative efforts that the government officers and politicians bring to make these initiatives as successful as possible.

Supporting Wales Week in London

I’m delighted that Acorn is doing its bit to support Wales Week in London, and we’re expecting some 70+ activities and events to be held around London in the spring that will promote Wales and Welsh businesses in London – a world-leading capital with so much potential for our economy.

I know from speaking with my colleague that the involvement of both governments in Wales Week in London has been nothing short of impressive, and shows directly how the government and the private sector works hand-in-hand for the common good.

The Welsh business community is a resource that I believe has a huge role to play in selling Wales to the wider world. Who better to talk about the benefits of doing business here than the businesses that already know how positive it can be? So now is the time for us all to grab the bull by the horns and play a full and active role in shaping the future of the Welsh economy. There are many opportunities outside Wales’ borders for those that are willing to take advantage of them and together we can.

Exciting plans 

And so on that note, I’d like to wish everyone the very best for 2018 – my team and I here at Acorn have some exciting plans and we’re looking forward to getting to stuck in.

Matt Southall is Group Managing Director of Wales’ leading multi-specialist recruiter Acorn