Businesses across West Norfolk are being urged to help shape the direction of a proposed economic alliance which could give them access to a pan-European market of more than two million companies.

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A delegation from the German city of Herford met officials from West Norfolk Council, UK Trade and Investment, West Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and Morston Assets, to outline a vision to build on existing Hanseatic League ties to create a new association of firms.

Since it was reformed in 1980, the Hanseatic League (Hanse) has focused on developing tourism, cultural, and academic links between cities and towns which were once members of the medieval trading bloc.

But now a new drive is under way to forge closer economic ties between member areas which stretch from Lynn to Russia and France.

Marion Kohn, from the Herford economic development department, said a pilot project had already brought together 30 companies from the Hanseatic area.

She said the aim would be to create a body which firms could sign up to, backed by local council economic development teams as well as support from chambers of commerce.

Social networks would also play an important part via a closed Linked In group, but the aim was to create alliances where businesses could meet face to face.

“We want to create a new league – not just of tourism managers, or culture managers,” she said. “The Hanseatic League can open the doors for our companies. We can connect companies to each other. Are there companies which can link with each other to create new products to bring to market? The Hanse is a well-known brand with a very positive image. It has the economic potential of 25 million people and about two million companies.”

Among the issues considered by the event was what the new body should be called, how it could develop and market a brand, and which geographic area should be covered.

A dinner to outline the proposals had also seen initial interest in the idea from West Norfolk firms including Herbert Engineering and Williams Refrigeration.

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council and English Commissioner for the Hanseatic League, urged businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunties it could offer.

“There is so much more the league can offer in terms of connections. We want to grow our businesses and this is a big opportunity,” he said.

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