Norfolk hailed as World Class place for business

A campaign to showcase Norfolk as a world class place to do business has been hailed for boosting the county's reputation, helping to get the final stretch of the A11 dualled and encouraging new jobs.

The World Class Norfolk campaign has been praised by business bosses for helping to transform the perception of the county as a place to base businesses.

Launched by Norfolk County Council using �350,000 of Local Authority Business Growth Initiative (LABGI) money, the campaign has been credited with helping to convince businesses to create jobs in the county, despite being against a backdrop of the harshest recession in living memory.

It was launched because it was believed 'chronically poor perceptions' of Norfolk as a business location was putting large firms and entrepreneurs off from starting businesses or moving to the county.

According to a report which county councillors will discuss next week, between September 2008 and August 2009, before the campaign was launched, 161 knowledge-based jobs were created.

Yet during and after the campaign (September 2009 to August last year) 291 were created, with a further 250 in the pipeline.

Knowledge-based jobs include engineering, financial services, health and life sciences, energy, creative industries and tourism.

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While council officers say the jobs cannot be attributed directly to the campaign, they point out that it has happened against a decreasing trend in the region.

The campaign, which included television adverts and posters at tube stations showing Norfolk luminaries such as Thomas Paine, Lord Horatio Nelson and Stephen Fry, has also improved the perception of the county as a place to do business, according to analysis by the county council, with a surge in the number of people who feel Norfolk has a good reputation as a business location. Before the campaign, 41pc of businesses and decision makers felt the county had a good reputation, compared to 63pc in a repeat survey last year.

And leaders said the dividends of the campaign, which, through MPs also lobbied for the dualling of the A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills, would remain.

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said: 'This was no flash in the pan. It's clear that the campaign has had a lasting effect, and the reason is that it's underlying message is true. Norfolk is already the home for World Class businesses, and the brand is still being used by a number of them, including life sciences and energy, to promote themselves and the county.

'The World Class Norfolk website is now the main portal for inquiries about inward investment, and the number of World Class Norfolk Twitter followers has continued to grow and is approaching 2,000.

'The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership will be developing its strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk over the next few months, and will be able to build upon the improved perceptions brought by the campaign.

'The unstinting support of Norfolk's MPs ensured the message was heard loud and clear in London, as it did in the related A11 dualling campaign.

'Looking ahead, there are a number of hidden gems among local businesses that I am keen to see getting the recognition they deserve as being truly World Class.'

The campaign overcame a controversial start, when its original tagline of World Class: Norfolk for Norfolk - intended to turn a phrase long used to denigrate the county into a positive - attracted criticism.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said it has been a 'very powerful' campaign which had definitely had an impact.

She said: 'Particularly with the posters on the railway stations and the tubes, it was a very powerful message which raised the profile of Norfolk as a business location.

'Overall, it was part of a combination of things which have happened to make Norfolk a good location for business.

'The government seems to have discovered us, We have the enterprise zone, one of the pilot LEPs and the �26m for Norwich Research Park.

'A lot of things have come together and the World Class Norfolk campaign did have an impact in that people are looking at us in a different way.'

She said it had also helped companies to recruit staff and added: 'We would really like to see the campaign continue.

'I know money is tight, but I would say it has had an impact and would be good to be able to continue it.'

The World Class Norfolk campaign will be discussed when the county council's environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel meets on Wednesday.