Leader of Hampshire County Council, Rob Humby, says business success is key to overall wealth

The power of a strong economy to improve people’s prospects should never be underestimated according to the Leader of Hampshire County Council, who is determined to bring all parts of the local authority’s economy together to make this happen.

County Council Leader Councillor Rob Humby began his working life as an apprentice engineer and went on to start his own engineering firm before later running a plant nursery business.

Enter the Hampshire Business Awards >>

He has also served as Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and has been a Cabinet Member for Economy, Transport and Environment.

Councillor Humby said: “Engineering is about problem solving and making machinery talk to each other which is what I try to do with organisations and people.

“If you have a strong economy then everything lifts. School attainment lifts and how people think about where they live also goes up.

“If you can develop a really vibrant economy with people in good jobs, and the infrastructure to go with it, then naturally things improve. It all starts, however, with education, skills and training.

Hampshire Business Awards

Hampshire County Council and The Business Magazine are partnering to launch the Hampshire Business Awards, and on November 30 they will celebrate the achievements of the county’s business ecosystem at a special awards event, to be held at Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre.

The conference centre is next to Farnborough Airport – the hub of one of the county’s fastest growing industries – aviation.

Councillor Humby explained how the awards will showcase the diversity of industry found across the County.

“It’s about putting Hampshire on the map, he said.

“We have some world-leading businesses here and some amazing businesses, large and small, that most people will not have heard of.

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“If you are excellent at what you do then why shouldn’t you shout about it? The awards will bring people together, be a shop window and allow businesses to say; ‘this is us’ and ‘this is what we do’.”

The Hampshire Business Awards also align with the Hampshire 2050 vision which looks at how organisations, in both the public and private sector, can work together to make the County ‘a great place in which to live, work, visit and play’.

Councillor Humby added: “The Hampshire 2050 vision talks about what a fantastic place Hampshire is and how we can create a vibrant economy while maintaining it as the beautiful place that it is.

“We have everything here. The Solent is the biggest natural water park in the world, we have wonderful national parks and we are well connected in terms of infrastructure.

“My family have been in Hampshire for more than 450 years and I’m very proud of that. I am Hampshire through-and-through and everything that we are doing is about helping the people who live in Hampshire.”

Collaboration is key

If Hampshire is to reach its potential, according to Councillor Humby, collaboration across the economic spectrum, even between companies that consider each other as competitors, is essential.

He said: “Everyone puts their arms around their own organisation but what they should be doing is opening their arms and realising that the benefit of doing this is huge. If we can get people not to worry about being protective, then it will be a benefit to everyone.

“I’m not political and I won’t let politics get in the way of doing the right thing. I want to join up the dots and get people to understand what life is like in each others’ shoes.” 

Collaboration and pooling resources are also necessary in the face of fast technological change – particularly with the advance of cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Councillor Humby said: “My grandfather was born in 1903. In 1903 there wasn’t any flight, however 66 years later we landed on the moon.

“If we think of how fast technology is progressing then you have to be really on it. But how do you keep pace? By bringing together the schools, colleges and universities with business.”

The Hampshire County Council Leader also said it was important that businesses understood the responsibility that the authority had when it came to social care and how business activity was crucial to contributing towards this.

He said: “I see my role as trying to explain to businesses what we do as a County and how that might affect their children or if they have parents who receive social care.”

Skills base is vital

The skilled labour shortage is never far from the headlines and the Hampshire County Council Leader says the authority is well-placed to assist in alleviating this through its input into education.

He said: “We need to be more joined up with the local authority, universities, colleges and employers talking to each other and understanding what the future skills needs will be.

“Education is key and has to be aligned with the skills that employers are looking for. This alignment should happen at all levels of the school system and there is not any reason why it should not happen at junior schools.” 

Retraining and reskilling of workers who are in declining industries is also on the Council’s agenda as it looks to future-proof the county’s workforce so that it becomes more attractive to foreign investors.

Councillor Humby said: “Getting the right qualified staff and attracting staff is challenging for businesses. 

“Our colleges are excellent at offering retraining opportunities however we should not forget that we have a lot of challenged residents in Hampshire with very complex needs and we need to make sure we don’t exclude any area of our community.”

The Hampshire County Council Leader says his background as an engineer means he leans more towards action rather than talk alone.

He said: “Talking is good but there has to be something that comes out of the end of it.
“We do live in an amazing County and the opportunities are huge if we work together in a joined-up way.”

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